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The Mountain-Prairie Region


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

Refer: Edna Rey Vizgirdaz 208-378-5243


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to list the Spalding's catchfly, a plant found in four western states and CanTada, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A species is listed as threatened when it is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The Spalding's catchfly is a long-lived perennial herb in the pink or carnation family. It has small greenish-white flowers and foliage covered with sticky hairs. The plant is native to Palouse prairie habitats in southeastern Washington, northwestern Montana, and adjacent portions of Idaho, Oregon and British Columbia, Canada. The majority of remaining Spalding's catchfly populations are extremely small and isolated, often bordering adjacent agricultural fields or rangelands.

"Spalding’s catchfly thrived in native western grassland prairies but is now increasingly rare," said Anne Badgley, regional director of the Service’s Pacific Region. "A variety of factors have contributed to the plant’s decline, including conversion of prairie into farmland, livestock grazing and trampling, fire suppression, and the effects of herbicides."

The native grassland prairies that are home to the Spalding’s catchfly range in elevation from 1,500 to 5,000 feet. This habitat once was widespread in the region, but has been reduced by more than 95 percent over the past century, primarily because of conversion to agricultural and urban uses. Fire suppression also has allowed an unnatural increase in woody plants, which overtake catchfly habitat, decreasing its numbers. Currently, there are only 52 locations where the catchfly is found, containing a total of about 16,500 plants.

The catchfly also faces severe competition with exotic plants. Bumblebees that normally provide pollination are regularly attracted away from the catchfly by the flowers of invasive, exotic plants. Other types of insects eat the catchfly’s seeds, preventing the plant from reproducing.

The Endangered Species Act does not prohibit "take" of listed plants on private lands, but landowners must comply with state laws protecting imperiled plants. Consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are necessary for private and other landowners only when Federal funding or permits are required for activities that may affect listed species.

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 medicine used to treat cancer, heart disease, juvenile leukemia, and malaria, as well as that used to assist organ transplants. Plants are also used to develop natural pesticides.

Listing Spalding’s catchfly as threatened will help direct funding and promote conservation efforts necessary to recover this species. The Service has already begun working with appropriate federal and state agencies and private landowners to identify and reduce impacts to the species. Just over half of the known populations of this plant occur on private land, much of which is slated for development, including areas near Redbird Ridge in Idaho, and Wallowa Lake in Oregon.

Spalding’s catchfly already is listed as endangered by the State of Oregon and as threatened under the State of Washington’s Natural Heritage Program. It is considered a sensitive species by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The Service published its proposal to list the Spalding’s Catchfly in today’s Federal Register. The public is invited to submit written comments on the proposal until February 1, 2000. Comments should be sent to: Snake River Basin Office Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Room 368, Boise, Idaho 83709.

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 fish and wildlife agencies.

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