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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

March 14, 2002
Mary Jennings 307-772-2374, x32
Dan Sobieck 303-236-7905


 Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the desert yellowhead, a perennial herb in the sunflower family, to the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

The only known population, which included approximately 12,000 plants according to surveys done in 2001, exists on less than 50 acres of Federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in southern Fremont County, Wyoming.

"The fact that the desert yellowhead occurs on fewer than 50 acres of land in the world and its small population size make this plant vulnerable to natural and human-caused disturbance and environmental stress," said Ralph Morgenweck, Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region.

The desert yellowhead, approximately 12 inches high, has long leathery, lance to oval-shaped leaves with 25 to 80 flower heads crowded at the top of each stem. Each flower head contains four to six yellow disk flowers. Botanist Robert Dorn discovered the desert yellowhead in Wyoming in 1990.

The desert yellowhead is threatened by human activities, including potential oil and gas field development on a 1,160-acre lease that includes the plant’s habitat. Two large leases for oil and gas development were issued in 1996 and 1997 that could impact the plant and its habitat, with no specific stipulations included to protect the plant. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wyoming Ecological Services Field Office is in the process of coordinating with BLM staff on development of a draft conservation agreement. Under a cost-share agreement with BLM, a permanent monitoring plot has been established and population data has been collected during six of the last seven years.

The Endangered Species Act directs Federal agencies to protect and promote the recovery of listed species, making it illegal to collect and remove listed plants from Federal lands. In addition, a review of any Federal projects that may impact a listed plant is required.

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 treatments for cancer, juvenile leukemia, heart disease, and malaria, as well as those used to assist in organ transplants. Plants also are 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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 70 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 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 fish and wildlife agencies.

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