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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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


September 26, 2006

Contacts:  Heather Barnes (801) 975-3330
                 Diane Katzenberger (303) 236-4578


Public Comment Period Closes October 26, 2006

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released an analysis that estimates costs related to the designation of critical habitat for two federally endangered plants, the Shivwits milk-vetch and the Holmgren milk-vetch, at $8.8 to $14.1 million over the next 20 years. The Service also refined the boundaries of its earlier critical habitat proposal and reopened the public comment period on the proposal. 

The Holmgren milk-vetch and Shivwits milk-vetch were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2001. In 2006, the Service proposed to designate approximately 2,241 acres of critical habitat for the Holmgren milk-vetch and 6,475 acres for the Shivwits milk-vetch in Washington County, Utah and Mohave County, Arizona. 

Critical habitat is a term in the Endangered Species Act. It identifies geographic areas that contain features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species and may require special management considerations or protection. The designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve, or other conservation area. It does not allow government or public access to private lands. Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.

When specifying an area as critical habitat, the ESA requires the Service to consider the economic and other relevant impacts of the designation.  If the benefits of excluding an area outweigh the benefit of including it, the Secretary may exclude an area from critical habitat, unless this would result in the extinction of a threatened or endangered species.

The Service is also proposing to refine boundaries for two of the critical habitat units based on updated information on plant habitat and occupancy.  One subunit in Stucki Springs, Utah is proposed to decrease from 147 to 129 acres and a second subunit in South Hills, Utah is proposed to increase from 412 acres to 437 acres.

Approximately ninety-nine percent of the economic impact from designating critical habitat is anticipated to affect Federal agencies, primarily the Bureau of Land Management and State Departments of Transportation.

Development-related costs due to losses in Federal land values resulting from the removal of BLM-administered public lands from disposal status account for approximately 70 to 80 percent of forecast costs and range from $7.2 to $10.0 million.  Potential costs to transportation and utility operations are estimated to range between $1.0 and $3.5 million and future costs associated with managing critical habitat on public and tribal lands are estimated at approximately $0.5 million.  All estimated costs are for a period of 20 years.

Both the Shivwits milk-vetch and the Holmgren milk-vetch are members of the pea family.  The Shivwits milk-vetch, often associated with purple hued patch of soft clay soil, is found only in southern Washington County, Utah and numbers fewer than 4,000 plants. The Holmgren milk-vetch is most frequently found on the skirt edges of hill and plateau formations, slightly above or on the edge of drainage areas.  Holmgren population numbers vary greatly depending on yearly precipitation.  Rapid urban expansion and population growth in the plants’ habitat, which includes construction of new roads, power lines and other development and the spread of noxious weeds, has caused both plants to decline rapidly.

In conjunction with the economic analysis, the Service released a draft environmental assessment which broadly evaluates the social and cultural effects of the proposed critical habitat designation.

In 30 years of implementing the ESA, the Service has found that designation of critical habitat provides little additional protection for most listed species, while preventing the agency from using scarce conservation resources for activities with greater conservation benefits. 

In almost all cases, recovery of listed species will come through voluntary cooperative partnerships, not regulatory measures such as critical habitat. Habitat is also protected through cooperative measures under the ESA, including Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements, Candidate Conservation Agreements and state programs. In addition, voluntary partnership programs such as the Service’s Private Stewardship Grants and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program also restore habitat. Habitat for listed species is provided on many of the Service’s National Wildlife Refuges, and state wildlife management areas.

The notice of availability of the draft economic analysis, draft environmental assessment, and proposed boundary refinements was published today in the Federal Register.  These documents and the proposal to designate critical habitat for the Shivwits and Holmgren milk-vetches are available on our web site at

Comments on the proposed critical habitat and/or the draft economic analysis maybe submitted to: Larry Crist, Acting Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2369 West Orton Circle, Suite 50, West Valley City, UT  84119 or electronically mailed to using “Attn:  Shivwits or Holmgren milk-vetch” in the subject line.  Comments may also be faxed to 801-975-3331. All comments must be received by close of business on October 26, 2006.

Comments previously submitted regarding the critical habitat proposal need not be resubmitted as they have been incorporated into the public record and will be fully considered in preparation of the final rule.

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 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

  - FWS –



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