3 western Colorado wildflowers added to protection list


Comments accepted on critical habitat proposal

Comments on the proposed critical habitat for three western Colorado plants are being accepted until Sept. 26. More information may be found at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/plants/3ColoradoPlants/index.html or by contacting the Grand Junction office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 970-243-2778.

In a move with consequences for activities including energy development, the federal government is proceeding with listing three western Colorado wildflowers for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also is proposing designating more than 54,000 acres of critical habitat for the plants.

The decision comes a year after the agency recommended the listings for the plants, two of which it says are threatened by energy development.

The agency said in a news release it is listing the Pagosa skyrocket as endangered and the DeBeque phacelia and Parachute beardtongue, also known as the Parachute penstemon, as threatened.

The Parachute beardtongue is located only on oil shale outcrops on the Roan Plateau in Garfield County. Of the known 4,133 Parachute beardtongue plants, 69 percent are on two properties owned by Oxy USA Inc., and 12 percent more are on land under other energy company ownership. The plants on Oxy land are protected through the properties’ designations as Colorado State Natural Areas. While the Fish and Wildlife Service previously said that designation falls short because it involves a voluntary agreement by Oxy, it is now considering excluding them as critical habitat due to the agreement.

It is proposing designating 19,155 acres of critical habitat for the plant, with 73 percent on federal land.

Where listed plants are found on federal land or in the case of designated critical habitat there, consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service is required for actions that may affect a species. Consultation in the case of private lands that are home to listed plants comes only where activities involving the plants requires federal funding or permitting, or for the use of pesticides registered with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fish and Wildlife is proposing almost 25,000 acres of critical habitat for the DeBeque phacelia, with 87 percent of the area on federal lands.

The plant is found only on clay soil near De Beque and is threatened by natural gas exploration and other activities, Fish and Wildlife said.

The Pagosa skyrocket has been found in only two areas near Pagosa Springs. Nearly 10,000 acres of critical habitat are proposed, mostly on private land, where most of its habitat is found.

Some of the proposed critical habitat for the Pagosa skyrocket and Parachute beardtongue isn’t currently occupied by the plants, but the plan is to introduce them there.


Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

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