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News & Releases
Mountain-Prairie Region

News Release

Rare Colorado Plant Proposed for Listing as Threatened Under Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release

September 16, 2020

Two images overlaid together. The larger image shows a plant with yellow oblong flowers, superimposed over it in the left is a view of the plant from further back showing the plant in soil
Chapin Mesa milkvetch (Astragalus schmolliae). Photo credit: Colorado Natural Heritage Program

DENVER - After completing an in-depth species status assessment using the best available science, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is proposing to list the Chapin Mesa milkvetch as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and designate critical habitat for the species.

The Chapin Mesa milkvetch is a rare, native perennial herb in the pea family found only in the southwestern corner of Colorado. This plant consists of one sole interconnected population that is entirely constrained to tribal lands owned by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and National Park Service lands comprising Mesa Verde National Park.

The Service is committed to using the best available science in all of its ESA determinations, putting into place appropriate measures for protecting listed species, and to working with diverse partners to recover them.

Wildfires and the presence of invasive non-native plants, especially cheatgrass, are the primary threats to the Chapin Mesa milkvetch. Because this species is currently comprised of a single population, it is highly vulnerable to catastrophic events such as fire. The high potential for a future catastrophic event that could affect all or a large portion of the species’ range puts the Chapin Mesa milkvetch at increased risk of extinction in the foreseeable future.

To further conservation and recovery of the Chapin Mesa milkvetch, the Service is also proposing to designate approximately 3,635 acres of critical habitat for the species. Approximately 69 percent of the proposed critical habitat is on federal lands in Mesa Verde National Park. Critical habitat is defined by the ESA as areas that contain features that are essential for the conservation and recovery of a listed species, which may require special management considerations or protections.

The Service prepared an analysis of the economic impacts of the proposed critical habitat designation and today announced the availability of the draft economic analysis for public review and comment.

The proposed listing, proposed critical habitat, and draft economic analysis will publish in the Federal Register on September 17, 2020 and is available for viewing here. The Service will accept comments regarding these documents for 60-days after publication. Interested parties can submit comments electronically at http://www.regulations.gov. In the search box, enter docket number FWS–R6–ES–2018–0055, and then click on the “Comment Now!” button.

Comments are also accepted via U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R6–ES–2018–0055, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

The Service will post all comments received on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that the agency will post any personal information the public provides.

You can learn more about the Chapin Mesa milkvetch at: https://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/es/skiffSchmollsMilkvetch.php.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen in the West, visit our website, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Instagram.

– FWS –

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Office of External Affairs

Mountain-Prairie Region

134 Union Blvd

Lakewood, CO 80228


303-236-3815 FAX



Joe Szuszwalak
(303) 236-4336

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: September 16, 2020
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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