photo by Ben Franklin, Utah Natural Heritage Program of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Species Description: The Deseret milk-vetch (Astragalus desereticus) is a perennial, herbaceous, subacaulescent (almost stemless) plant in thelegune family. It is approximately 2-6 inches in height, and has pinnately compound leaves (feather -like arrangement with leaflets displayed on a central stalk) that are 2-4 inches long with 11-17 leaflets. The flower petals are whitish except for pinkish whings and a lilac keel-tip, and seed pods are 0.4-0.8 inches long and densely covered with lustrous hairs.
Location: The Deseret milk-vetch habitat is narrowly restricted to steep, sandy bluffs associated with south and west facing slopes within the Moroni Formation at elevations between 5,400 and 5,600 feet. The current known range of the Deseret milk-vetch is limited to the Birdseye population which occupies an area approximately 1 mile long by 0.3 mile wide, or about 345 acres, in the Thistle Creek watershed immediately east of Birdseye, Utah. Approximately 230 acres are owned by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in the Birdseye Unit of the Northwest Mani Wildlife Management Area, 25 acres are owned by the Utah Department of Transportation, and 90 acres are on private lands owned by several landowners.
Recent Actions: In July 2011, the Service completed a 5-year review of the species status as required by Section 4(c)(2)(B) of the Act. This review concluded that the best scientific information available indicates the Deseret milkvetch no longer meets the Act's definition of threatened or endangered. Deseret milkvetch was listed in 1999 when the population was estimated at approximately 10,000 individuals within 125 acres of habitat. We considered the species to be endangered based on perceived threats from residential development, highway widening, livestock grazing and trampling, wildlife management, and other impacts to its habitat in combination with small population size and restricted distribution. Although the range has not increased significantly since we listed the species, additional surveys have shown there are more plants and the perceived threats are not as significant as originally thought. The Deseret milkvetch should be proposed for delisting due to error in original listing.
On January 25, 2007, the Service announced our intention to conduct rulemaking under the Act for the purpose of removing the Deseret milk-vetch from the List of Endangered and Threatened Plants in the near future and determined that designating criticial habitat for this plant would not be prudent (72 FR 3379). Specifically, the Service announced our intention to propose delisting the Deseret milk-vetch because threats as identified in the final listing rule are not as significant as earlier believed and are managed such that the species is not likely to become in danger of extinction throughout all or a significiant portion of its range in the foreseeable future.
On October 20, 1999, the Service determined the Deseret milk-vetch to be a threatened species under the authority of the Act (64 FR 56590). The Deseret milk-vetch was considered extinct until its rediscovery in 1981. Threats described in the original listing included residential development, highway widening, lovestock grazing and trampling, other impacts to its limited habitat, and a lack of protection under State or local laws or regulations.