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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

Larry England 801-524-5001 ext 138
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408

Native Utah Plant Receives ESA Protection

A rare plant found only in Utah will be protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the Deseret milk-vetch has been designated as threatened.

The one known remaining population of Deseret milk-vetch, consisting of between 5,000 and 10,000 individual plants, is found on 300 acres in Utah County near the town of Birdseye on private and state land. A member of the bean family, this low-growing herbaceous plant with white flowers and compound leaves is found primarily on steep south- and west-facing slopes. It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1981.

Loss and destruction of habitat due to urban expansion is considered the biggest threat to its continues existence. The small population size and extremely limited range makes the species vulnerable to natural and human-caused disturbances and environmental stress.

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, and medicines to assist in organ transplants. Plants are also being used to develop natural pesticides.

The Endangered Species Act does not prohibit "take" of listed plants on private lands, but it is illegal to remove, cut, dig up, or damage or destroy any listed plant in violation of any state laws and regulations protecting imperiled plants. Consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are required for private and other landowners only when Federal funding or permits are required for activities that may affect listed species.

A complete description of the Service’s final rule to list the Deseret milk-vetch was published in the Federal Register on October 20, 1999.

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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance 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 wildlife agencies.

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