Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Obama Interior Dept. declines to ESA list 2 desert plants

by Joshua Learn, E&E reporter, eenews.net, Washington DC. 9/23/14

LAS VEGAS -- The US Fish and Wildlife Service has decided not to list two Arizona & Nevada buckwheat plants under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency will publish its findings on the Churchill Narrows buckwheat and the Las Vegas buckwheat in the Federal Register tomorrow.

FWS said stressors including climate change, livestock grazing, invasive species and others were not "causing a decline in the [the Churchill Narrows species], or its habitat, either now or into the future."

In the case of the Las Vegas buckwheat, the findings said that "habitat and individuals have been lost from 62 percent of the historical occurrences" and another 5.5 percent of its remaining habitat will be lost due to development in the future.

"However, we do not anticipate future development to be a threat to the remaining populations because most are on public lands (many of which are in conservation areas) where we do not anticipate similar losses," it added.

Environmentalists said the agency's process had benefited the plants.

"The ESA listing push was needed and positive for Las Vegas and Churchill Narrows buckwheats," said Dan Patterson, an ecologist and public lands campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. "More resources were dedicated to surveys, discovering new populations."

Patterson added that a slowdown in urban sprawl has helped the plants and provides opportunity for better planning.

The Bureau of Land Management "must carefully manage mining, livestock grazing and off-road vehicles on public lands to ensure survival," he said. "Climate change is also a threat. The center will continue to monitor these rare plants, unique and important pieces of the desert web of life."

The Churchill Narrows and Las Vegas varieties of buckwheat have been candidates for ESA listing since 2004 and 2007, respectively.

The decisions come as part of an agreement FWS signed in 2011 with CBD and WildEarth Guardians to streamline decisions for hundreds of imperiled species.

Taylor Jones of WildEarth Guardians said his organization wasn't involved directly with conservation efforts on the buckwheat plants. But he said the group is "always concerned when the Service denies protection to species they have previously thought warranted for listing -- in this case, not that long ago -- but at least the process is moving forward and there are now many more options for seeking protections for these species in the future.

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