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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

April 12, 2000
Contact: Reed Harris  801-524-5001 x126
Sharon Rose  303-236-7917 x 415
Karen Miranda Gleason 303-236-7917 x 431 (Available 4/13)


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to grant federal endangered species protection to a pair of rare plants, found only near the border between southern Utah and northern Arizona, under the Endangered Species Act.

The Holmgren milk-vetch (Astragalus holmgreniorum) and the Shivwits milk-vetch (Astragalus ampullariodes) are perennials belonging to the pea family. The remaining populations of both species are very small. The Holmgren milk-vetch population varies from 5,000 to 11,000 plants depending upon rainfall and is native to Washington County, Utah, and adjacent Mojave County, Arizona, near the city of St. George, Utah. The Shivwits milk-vetch numbering less than 1,000 plants, grows only in southern Washington County.

Holmgren Milk-Vetch Image (99750 bytes)Shivwits Milk-Vetch Image (97898 bytes)







Photo: Renee Van Buren, Utah Valley State College                                         Photo:   Ron Bolander, BLM

Both species grow on State and private land, as well as land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Shivwits milk-vetch is also found on the Shivwits Reservation of the Shivwits band of the Paiute Tribe.

The numbers of both plants are rapidly decreasing due primarily to rapid urban expansion and population growth in the St. George area where much of the plants’ habitat has been destroyed or degraded by the construction of new roads, power lines, and other development. Off-road recreational vehicle use, the spread of noxious weeds, overgrazing, and mineral development also threaten the plants’ survival.

"These plants are a unique part of the natural heritage of the Southwest," said Ralph Morgenweck, the Service’s regional director for the Mountain-Prairie Region. "Listing them under the Act will provide not only for their protection but also for their long-term recovery."

The Holmgren milk-vetch grows along the ground, spreading in a circle of compound leaves, each with tiny oval-shaped leaflets. Found in shallow, sparsely vegetated soil, the Holmgren milk-vetch produces small purple flowers in the spring and pods up to 2 inches long. The Shivwits milk-vetch, by contrast, usually grows 8 to 20 inches tall, with flowering stems that can be up to 40 inches. The upright Shivwits milk-vetch, found only in clay soils, sports large leaflets and numerous cream-colored flowers and is palatable to most wild and domestic grazing animals.

The Endangered Species Act does not prohibit "take" of listed plants on private lands, but landowners must comply with state laws protecting imperiled plants. Consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are necessary for private and other landowners only when Federal funding or permits are required for activities that may affect listed species.

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 form plant compounds, including medicine used to treat cancer, heart disease, juvenile leukemia, and malaria, as well as that used to assist organ transplants. Plants are also used to develop natural pesticides.

The Service published the proposal to list the two plants in today’s Federal Register. Comments and materials concerning this proposal will be accepted from all interested parties and should be sent by June 11, 2000 to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lincoln Plaza, Suite 404, 145 East 1300 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115.

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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 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 State, tribal, and foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

An electronic version of this news release, along with digital photographs, is available on our website: http:

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