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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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


February 14, 2007

Al Pfister 970-243-2778
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-4578



The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reviewed a petition seeking to add the DeBeque milkvetch, a perennial plant found in western Colorado, to the federal list of threatened and endangered species and concluded available information does not contain substantial scientific information indicating such protection may be warranted.  

The Service made this determination in response to a petition received in October 2004 from the Center for Native Ecosystems and the Colorado Native Plant Society to list the DeBeque milkvetch as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

The DeBeque milkvetch (Astragalus debequaeus), a member of the pea family, is found at elevations between 4,970 and 6,500 feet in Mesa and Garfield counties in Colorado.  Its habitat is the fine-textured, sandy clay soils of the Atwell Gulch portion of the Wasatch Formation.  The plants are clump-forming with a woody taproot, 5 to 12-inch stems, and white upright flowers.   

Of the 17 known plant populations, 14 are found near the town of DeBeque, Colorado in Mesa County; 12 of these populations occur mostly on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and two on private lands.  The remaining three populations are located in Garfield County at the base of the Roan Plateau near the town of Rifle, Colorado; two are mostly on BLM lands and one is on private land.  

“The Service will continue to work with the Bureau of Land Management to protect and monitor the known populations of the DeBeque milkvetch,” said Mitch King, the Service’s Director of the Mountain-Prairie Region. “We encourage interested parties to continue to gather data that will assist in these conservation efforts.” 

The petition claims the DeBeque milkvetch is impacted by oil and gas development, oil shale mining, coalbed methane development and/or coal mining, noxious weeds and seeding, existing and projected roads, livestock trampling, off-road vehicle use, and increased housing development.  In making this finding, the Service evaluated whether information presented by petitioners and in our files documenting impacts from these and other factors was substantial enough to indicate that listing may be warranted. 

The petition cites habitat degradation as a result of energy development activities and lack of regulatory oversight by the BLM as the main factors affecting DeBeque milkvetch populations.  Since the petition was submitted in 2004, the BLM has taken additional measures to conserve the plants within potential oil and gas development areas and has withheld some areas from oil and gas leasing.  The BLM has conducted new surveys as part of the review process for drilling permit applications and grazing allotment renewals.  The agency has also added standard lease stipulations and controlled-use stipulations to new oil and gas leases.  Monitoring is being implemented to assess the effectiveness of these measures in minimizing impacts to the plant as additional development occurs within its habitat. 

On the basis of the review, the Service finds that information provided in the petition as well as other currently available information does not present substantial scientific information indicating listing the DeBeque milkvetch as threatened or endangered may be warranted.  The Service’s review of the available information also indicates that the DeBeque milkvetch appears to be maintaining its presence in known locations throughout its range. 

The ESA provides for citizens to petition the Service to take listing actions, including adding species to the lists of threatened and endangered wildlife and plants as well as removing species from the lists. The Service is required to make a 90-day finding on whether the petition presents substantial information that the petitioned action may be warranted.  

This finding was prepared pursuant to a court-approved settlement resulting from a lawsuit filed against the Service by the petitioners. 

This finding is available on the Internet at 

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. 


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