Service Proposes to List Two Rare Western Plants as Threatened Species, Extend Critical Habitat Protections
For Immediate Release
August, 5 2013
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is seeking input on a proposal to protect the Graham’s beardtongue (Penstemon grahamii) and White River beardtongue (Penstemon scariosus var. albifluvis) as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). We also propose to designate critical habitat for these two species. Both species are endemic to oil shale soils, which are at high risk of loss due to energy development.
Graham’s beardtongue is a perennial plant known from the Uintah Basin in Utah and Colorado. This species is susceptible to impacts from energy exploration and development, as well as the cumulative impacts of increased energy development, livestock grazing, invasive weeds, and climate change. We are proposing to designate about 68,000 acres as critical habitat for Graham’s beardtongue in 5 units with 66 percent of the ownership Federal and the remaining split between state and private lands. All of these units are occupied.
White River beardtongue is also found only in the Uintah basin in Utah and Colorado. The species faces similar threats as Graham’s beardtongue but may be more vulnerable due to its even smaller population sizes. We are proposing to designate about 15,000 acres as critical habitat for White River beardtongue in 3 units, with 47 percent of the ownership private, 39 percent Federal, and the remaining state lands. All of these units are occupied.
The ESA requires the Service to identify the location of habitat essential for the conservation of the species, which the ESA terms “critical habitat.” This identification helps Federal agencies identify actions that may affect listed species or their habitat, and to work with the Service to avoid or minimize those impacts. Identifying this habitat also helps raise awareness of the habitat needs of imperiled species and focus the conservation efforts of other partners such as state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and individual landowners.
Although non-federal lands have initially been included in these areas, activities on these lands are not affected now, and will not necessarily be affected if the species is protected under the ESA in the future. Only if an activity is authorized, funded or carried out by a federal agency will the agency need to work with the Service to help landowners avoid, reduce or mitigate potential impacts to listed species or their identified habitat.