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News & Releases
Mountain-Prairie Region

News Release

Service Announces Draft Economic Analysis, Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Conservation Agreement for Graham’s Beardtongue and White River Beardtongue

For Immediate Release

May 5, 2014


Public comment period reopened until July 7, 2014

White River beardtongue. Credit: Jessi Brunson / USFWS.
White River beardtongue. Credit: Jessi Brunson / USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of a draft economic analysis and draft environmental assessment on a proposal to designate critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for Graham’s beardtongue and White River beardtongue, two endemic plants found on oil shale soils in Uintah and Duchesne Counties, Utah, and Rio Blanco County, Colorado. The Service also announced the availability of a draft conservation agreement for the two species.

The Service will reopen the public comment period until July 7, 2014, on the August 6, 2013, proposed listing rule and proposed designation of critical habitat for both species; a draft environmental assessment; and additional data on species occurrences obtained since the proposed rule.

The Service will host a public hearing on May 28 on the proposals at the following location:
Uintah County Public Library
204 East 100 North,
Vernal, UT 84078
(435) 789-0091
An information session is scheduled from 4:30 to 6 pm, followed by the public hearing from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

“In order to better inform our decision-making on Graham’s and White River beardtongue, we want to hear from people who may have valuable information about the two species and threats to their habitat,” said Noreen Walsh, Mountain-Prairie Regional Director.
The draft economic analysis estimates the economic impacts, including costs and benefits, of the proposed rule to designate 67,959 acres of critical habitat for Graham’s beardtongue in Duchesne and Uintah Counties, Utah and Rio Blanco County, Colorado; and 14,940 acres for White River beardtongue in Uintah County, Utah and Rio Blanco County, Colorado. The analysis concluded that critical habitat designations for Graham’s and White River beardtongues are unlikely to generate costs exceeding $100 million per year. This estimate was based on the anticipated costs of consultations under section 7 of the ESA and associated conservation measures. The Service will use the draft environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act to analyze the effects of the proposed critical habitat on the physical and human environment.

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Working with federal and non-federal partners, the Service has developed a draft conservation agreement for the long-term conservation of Graham’s and White River beardtongues. The agreement identifies conservation measures for use throughout the range of each species to address threats identified in the proposed rule, including energy development (traditional oil and gas, oil shale and tar sands) and the cumulative effect of increased energy development, livestock grazing, invasive weeds, small population sizes and climate change. The Service is currently assessing the ability of the draft agreement to ameliorate the threats and conserve these species.

The proposed designation of critical habitat includes areas essential to Graham’s and White River beardtongues, based on the best scientific information available. The Service will utilize the economic analysis to inform identification of these habitats. Areas that contain habitats essential to the conservation of these species and where the benefits of these habitats outweigh potential economic impacts will be considered for critical habitat designation.

Critical habitat is a term defined in the ESA and identifies geographic areas containing features essential to the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and that may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

Both Graham’s and White River beardtongue are associated with sparse, but diverse desert shrub and piñon-juniper plant communities that include other endemic plants. Twenty-four populations of Graham’s Beardtongue are known to exist and contain 40,333 plants. Eight populations of White River beardtongue are known to exist and contain approximately 12,215 plants. Under the ESA, plants do not receive protection on private lands unless there is a federal nexus. Therefore, the Service is engaging private landowners in voluntary efforts for these two species. This is especially important for the White River beardtongue since almost half of its distribution occurs on private lands. 

The Service will open a 60-day public comment period until July 7, 2014, to allow review and comment. All relevant information received from the public, government agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties will be considered and addressed in the agency’s final listing determination and identification of habitat essential to the species’ conservation. More information is available online at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/plants/2utahbeardtongues/index.htm

Comments and information may be submitted to the Federal Register online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (follow the instructions for submitting comments and use Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2013–0081 for the proposed listing rule or FWS–R6–ES–2013–0082 for the critical habitat rule), or via U.S. mail or hand delivery to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R6–ES–2013–0081 or FWS–R6–ES–2013–0082); Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203. 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of External Affairs

Mountain-Prairie Region

134 Union Blvd

Lakewood, CO 80228

303-236-7905

303-236-3815 FAX

www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/



Contacts

Leith Edgar
303-236-4588
leith_edgar@fws.gov

Tova Spector
801-975-3330
tova_spector@fws.gov



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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: May 05, 2014
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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