Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

September 18, 2007                            

Contacts:  Larry England   801-975-3330 ext 138

                   Diane Katzenberger 303-236-4578

 

Listing of the Pariette Cactus Under the ESA Is Warranted But Precluded

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it has determined that listing the Pariette cactus, found in northeastern Utah, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act is warranted but that listing the plant is precluded by the need to complete other listing actions of a higher priority.  Due to recent taxonomic revisions, the Service also proposes to correct the taxonomy of the Pariette cactus and the Uinta Basin hookless cactus.

 

Until recently, the Pariette cactus (Sclerocactus brevispinus), the Uinta Basin hookless cactus (Sclerocactus glaucus) and a third cactus Sclerocactus wetlandicus (no common name) were considered one taxonomic entity.  We refer to them as the Uinta Basin hookless cactus complex.  However, in 2004, the Flora of North America recognized the three cacti as distinct species.  Consequently, in addition to finding that the Pariette cactus is warranted for listing as a distinct species, the Service proposes to revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants to reflect recent scientific changes in the taxonomy of Sclerocactus glaucus (Uinta Basin hookless cactus). 

 

The Uinta Basin hookless cactus complex is currently listed as a threatened under the Act.  Because the Pariette cactus was part of the Uinta Basin hookless cactus complex when it was listed, the Pariette will remain listed as a threatened species until the Service completes a rule to list it as endangered.

 

In response to a petition filed in April 2005 by the Center for Native Ecosystems, the Service initiated and completed a comprehensive review – known as a 12-month finding – and determined that listing the Pariette cactus as endangered is warranted due to impacts associated with energy development, unauthorized collection, and other factors affecting its continued existence.  However, the Service is precluded from beginning work immediately on a listing proposal because limited resources must be devoted to other higher priority actions.

 

The Pariette cactus is restricted to one population occurring in an 18,000-acre area of scattered suitable habitat on the boundary of Duchesne and Uintah counties in northeastern Utah.  Approximately 72 percent of the plant’s range occurs within the approved Castle Peak/Eightmile Flat oil and gas project area and the pending Gasco Uinta Basin Natural Gas Field Development project.  The Pariette cactus occurs primarily on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with small portions on state, Ute Indian Tribe, and private lands.

 

Despite its current status as a threatened species, the Pariette cactus continues to be impacted by infilling of additional oil and gas wells and supporting roads and pipeline facilities.  Losses have occurred despite conservation efforts implemented by the BLM and the oil field operator.  Energy development is occurring in the hookless cactus habitat (including the Pariette cactus) at a rate much greater than existed at the time of the original listing of the Uinta hookless cactus complex in 1979.  Due to the extent of current and pending energy development across its entire range, including direct and indirect effects of existing oil and gas development on virtually all of its range, the Pariette cactus is in danger of extinction throughout its entire range.

 

The Service is seeking comments on the proposed taxonomic change from all interested parties.  Comments will be accepted until November 19, 2007 and can be sent to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2369 Orton Circle, Suite 50, West Valley City, Utah 84119 or by Electronic mail to: fw6_sclerocactus@fws.gov.  

 

The Service also asks the public to continue to submit any new information that becomes available concerning the status of or impacts to the Pariette cactus.  This information will help us monitor the status of the plant and in the formulation of a future proposed listing rule.  We continue to encourage ongoing conservation efforts on behalf of the Pariette cactus.

 

Cacti within the Sclerocactus genus are small ball or barrel shaped.  Most Sclerocactus species have hooked central spines. Sclerocactus glaucus and S. wetlandicus, however, have straight (i.e. hookless) central spines, S. brevispinus has extremely short hooked central spines. The bodies of the plants are egg-shaped to nearly globular succulent stems approximately 1.5 to 7 inches tall, with generally purple to pinkish flowers.

 

The Endangered Species Act directs Federal agencies to protect and promote the recovery of Federally listed species. Consequently, Federal lands provide the greatest protection for endangered and threatened plants. Where listed plants occur on Federal lands, consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service is required when projects or activities may affect the species. For private and non-federal landowners, however, consultations come into play only in cases where activities involving plants require Federal funding or permitting or the use of an Environmental Protection Agency-registered pesticide. The Endangered Species Act does not provide any greater protection to listed plants on private lands than they already receive under State law. The Endangered Species Act also does not prohibit "take" of listed plants on private lands, but landowners must still comply with State laws protecting imperiled plants.

 

Native plants are important for their ecological, economic, and aesthetic values. Plants play an important role in development of crops that resist disease, insects, and drought. At least 25 percent of prescription drugs contain ingredients derived from plant compounds, including medicine to treat cancer, heart disease, juvenile leukemia, and malaria, and to assist in organ transplants. Plants are also used to develop natural pesticides.

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 547 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

 

- FWS -