Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Withdraws Consideration of ESA Protections for Chapin Mesa Milkvetch Due to Conservation Advancements
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DENVER - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is announcing the withdrawal of a proposed rule to provide Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection to the Chapin Mesa milkvetch and to designate critical habitat for the species. Following the publication of this proposed rule and associated public comment period in September 2020, the Service reviewed conservation plans and actions being undertaken by conservation partners to address the primary threats to this species and determined that protections under the ESA are no longer necessary.

"Conservation is a collaborative effort among many stakeholders; any time positive conservation actions can preclude the need for protections under the ESA is a reason to celebrate," said Acting Service Regional Director Matt Hogan. "The Service thanks the efforts of Mesa Verde National Park and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe for their continued efforts to conserve 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 unique plant consists of one sole interconnected population entirely constrained to Tribal lands of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and National Park Service lands comprising Mesa Verde National Park.

The species' primary threats include the increasing frequency of large high-intensity wildfires, invasive plants (particularly cheatgrass), and the interaction between these threats. The Service also analyzed climate projections for the San Juan Basin and found that climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

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would exacerbate these issues. These threats are addressed in the conservation efforts being undertaken by partners.

Mesa Verde National Park (Park) finalized and approved a conservation plan for this species in September 2018, followed by an in-depth implementation plan completed in February 2021. The Park's efforts include identifying and protecting intact Chapin Mesa milkvetch habitat, limitation of development, wildfire prevention, prompt response to wildfire, restoration of habitat following wildfire, control of invasive plant species, and support of pollinators. In addition, the Park has put several strategies into action, including limiting disturbances in key areas, implementing wildfire response procedures, funding a genetic study of the species, conducting soil analysis to determine suitable conditions for the species, drafting a livestock removal plan, and further investigating methods to manage and restore habitat for the species.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (Tribe) also developed and finalized a conservation plan for the species in February 2020. Conservation work includes participating in a collaborative research project with the Park, the U.S. Geological Survey, and Northern Arizona University to address wildfire and climate change concerns. The Tribe also restricts certain human activities, development, and access in Chapin Mesa milkvetch habitat, limiting habitat loss and disturbances within the Tribal Park. Additionally, the Tribe has implemented fire breaks within the Tribal Park to prevent the spread of large wildfires on the northern end of Chapin Mesa.

Following a review of the current and ongoing conservation efforts of Mesa Verde National Park and the work of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Service found that these efforts are sufficient to reduce impacts of the primary threats enough to no longer warrant protection under the ESA.

This action is available for inspection today in the Reading Room and will publish tomorrow in the Federal Register.

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, connect with us through any of these social media channels: FacebookTwitterFlickrYouTube, and Instagram.

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Endangered and/or Threatened species