U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to hold public meetings for comprehensive conservation plans for Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge
For Immediate Release
July 15 2013
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the Gierisch mallow, a desert plant, will be protected as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and has identified areas important to the species’ recovery. The Service published its final rule in the Federal Register today.
Gierisch mallow, found primarily on federal land in Utah and Arizona, is a perennial, orange-flowered plant that grows up to 3.4 feet tall. Eighteen known populations of the plant – 17 on Bureau of Land Management and one on Arizona State Land Department administered land – are found in northern Mohave County, Arizona and southern Washington County, Utah.
Primary threats to the mallow include gypsum mining, unauthorized off-road vehicle use and other recreational activities. In areas under federal jurisdiction, the ESA prohibits malicious damage or destruction of threatened or endangered plants.
A total of 12,822 acres presently occupied by Gierisch mallow has been designated as critical habitat. These areas provide the biological soil crusts within gypsum soils that are essential to the mallow. Critical habitat is a term in the ESA that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species. Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat must consult with the Service to ensure such actions are conducted in a manner that does not destroy designated critical habitat. Critical habitat designations have no effect on actions taking place on non-federal lands unless proposed activities involve federal funding or permitting.
An economic analysis of the effects of critical habitat designation projects $3,300 in annual costs – primarily from Federal administrative efforts that would be in addition to basic ESA consultation costs. An area may be excluded from critical habitat if we determine that the benefits of excluding the area outweigh the benefits of including the area as critical habitat, provided such exclusion will not result in the extinction of the species. None of the initially proposed areas were excluded from the final designation. The economic analysis and environmental assessment that helped inform that determination will be available shortly.
The Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge is one of the smallest urban refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge is approximately 72 acres in size consisting of a number of important fish and wildlife habitats including native short and mixed grass prairies, riparian corridors, and wetlands. We have scheduled public scoping meetings between July 25th and August 15th around the Denver Metropolitan Area. During public scoping, we request input as to which issues affecting refuge management or public uses should be addressed during the planning process. These meetings are essential to developing a list of issues that the CCP will address.
The meetings are considered “informal.” We encourage the public to arrive at 5:30 pm for a brief presentation beginning at 6:00 pm. We will solicit public comments following the presentation. Before and after the presentation, attendees will have the opportunity to meet with our personnel, learn more about the CCP process, and provide input.