Area wildflowers recommended for protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is recommending Endangered Species Act protection for three western Colorado wildflowers, two of which are found in regions of energy development.

The proposed listings under the act are the first by the Obama administration in nearly a year, according to conservation groups who are critical of the administration’s failure to recommend listings for more species.

The Parachute penstemon and Pagosa skyrocket have been candidates for protection since at least 1990, and the DeBeque phacelia has been a candidate since 1980, three conservation groups said in a news release today.

Josh Pollock, conservation director for the Center for Native Ecosystems, said the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision will be followed by a 60-day public comment period, during which such recommendations sometimes get reversed.

“There’s still no guarantees at this point but it’s an important step, it’s one more step on the way toward getting listed,” he said.

The DeBeque phacelia is found only on clay soil near De Beque. More than three-quarters of its habitat has been leased for oil and gas development, conservation groups say.

The Parachute penstemon occurs in seven populations on and around the Roan Plateau. Four populations are considered large enough to be stable, and three of them are on land owned by Occidental Petroleum, which has been working with the state to protect the plants.

Two of the remaining populations are on top of the Roan Plateau in areas recently leased for oil and gas development. Conservation groups are challenging leasing of the Roan Plateau in court.
The Pagosa skyrocket occurs in only two known locations on shale outcrops near Pagosa Springs. Both are within rights of way for state highways.


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