Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Agencies Sign Conservation Agreement For Christ's Indian Paintbrush

September 7, 2005


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

Worlds only population of rare plant to receive expanded conservation efforts at Mount Harrison

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service signed a Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) today to further conservation efforts for Christs ("Krists") Indian Paintbrush, a rare yellow-flowering plant located only on Mount Harrison, south of Burley, Idaho. This agreement will be in place for the next ten years and will direct conservation actions for one of Idaho s rarest species.

Christs Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja christii), has been considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act since 1975. It was discovered in 1950 by John Christ, and was formally described in 1973. This rare plant species is confined to one 220-acre population at the summit of Mount Harrison , which is managed exclusively by the U.S. Forest Service, Sawtooth National Forest , Minidoka Ranger District.

There are several threats to the Christs Indian Paintbrush population and its habitat. Of these, natural threats include invasive non-native plants, such as "smooth brome," disease, and fire. Other threats include illegal entry into protected areas by off-road vehicles and recreationists, harvesting and trampling of plants, road construction and maintenance, and trespass cattle. Such activities may adversely impact the plant and disturb the associated habitat.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Sawtooth National Forest had a previous Conservation Agreement for the species in the late 1990s, which expired in 2000. Although the agreement expired, both agencies have continued to manage for the species, including the installation of rock barriers to prevent off-road use, invasive weed control, coordination with user groups, population trend monitoring, and fencing to prevent livestock access.

In 1996, the Forest designated a 381-acre Research Natural Area (RNA) near the summit of Mount Harrison for the purpose of maintaining biological diversity, conducting research, monitoring, and fostering education. Only a portion of the Christs Indian Paintbrush population was included in the RNA. The Forest established a Botanical Special Interest Area (BSIA) on Mount Harrison to protect and manage the areas unique alpine and subalpine habitats and rare species such as Christs Indian Paintbrush. This designation incorporated the portion of the Christs Indian Paintbrush population not included in the RNA. The agencies also installed a series of interpretive signs in the BSIA in 2004 that provide educational information about Christs Indian Paintbrush and other plant, bird, and wildlife species, fire ecology, and conservation efforts at Mount Harrison .

Many proactive conservation actions are included in the Sawtooth National Forest Plan (2003), which contains specific protections for Threatened, Endangered, Proposed, Candidate, and Sensitive Species. The CCA that was signed today expands existing land management actions identified in the Forest Plan, and includes new actions to detect and control invasive species through a long-term weed control program, including control of smooth brome that is encroaching upon the roadside. Additional monitoring of plant population trends will occur, plant pollination ecology will be researched, and increased public outreach about the plant and its conservation are actions to be taken in the future under the CCA. The CCA will provide for continual assessment of threats to the population, and will allow for adaptive management to address all known or identified threats. Over 20 conservation action tasks and associated timelines are provided in the CCA.

"This CCA formalizes the Sawtooth National Forest s ongoing commitment to conservation and stewardship of this unique resource," stated Ruth Monahan, Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor. "It captures the efforts we need to do as stewards of this only known population in the present and provides us conservation direction in the future. These collaborative efforts could not be possible without the great partnerships we have with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Conservation Data Center , the permittees, and the public."

Jeff Foss, Field Supervisor of the Services Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office in Boise, Idaho, recognized the positive collaborative aspects of the plants conservation, noting, "Implementation of this CCA will continue to significantly reduce, and possibly some day, eliminate threats to this single population of Christs Indian Paintbrush and its habitat. The Forest s active role in this plants conservation has been exemplary. We are hopeful that the conservation actions in this Agreement will make it unnecessary to list this species under ESA. This is a success story in collaborative conservation."

The Agreement will be reviewed and amended through annual reporting by the Forest Service in coordination with the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Fish and Wildlife Service will also conduct its regularly scheduled Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR) on the Christs Indian Paintbrush, and the Agreement will be evaluated under the Policy of Evaluation of Conservation Efforts (PECE).

For more information about Christs Indian Paintbrush or the CCA, please contact Forest Botanist Kim Pierson, at the Sawtooth National Forest , 208-737-3212, or Fish and Wildlife Biologist Marilyn Hemker at the Snake River Fish and Wildlife Office, 208-378-5243.

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