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For Immediate Release, July 28, 2009

Contact: Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943

Two Rare Plants in Southern Oregon to Receive Habitat Protection

MEDFORD, Oreg.— Following a settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed critical habitat for two imperiled plants, the Cook’s lomatium and the large-flowered woolly meadowfoam.

In total, 11,038 acres are proposed for critical habitat. Of that, 6,327 acres will protect the large-flowered woolly meadowfoam and 7,104 acres will protect the Cook’s lomatium in Jackson and Josephine Counties. The plants’ habitat overlaps on 2,393 acres. These two plants – both vernal pool species, meaning they survive on ephemeral pools of water – were listed as endangered species in 2002, but the government failed to designate critical habitat for them as directed by the Endangered Species Act.

“Critical habitat is one of the most important safety nets for species listed under the Endangered Species Act,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These plants, along with all species dependent on vernal pools, will benefit greatly from the added protections afforded by critical habitat designation. Species with critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be recovering as those without it.”

Once an area is designated as critical habitat, the Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies to ensure that any activities they authorize do not harm or destroy that habitat. The Endangered Species Act mandates that critical habitat be designated for all federally listed species. Despite the conservation value of, and legal requirement for, critical habitat, the Bush administration refused to designate it for these endangered species.

The plants are threatened by urban sprawl, off-road vehicle use, nonnative species, mining, grazing, and destruction of wetlands. At the time of listing, both reported and unreported fills of vernal pool wetlands were occurring continually. Designating critical habitat will add a crucial layer of protection and promote the expansion and eventual recovery of these species.

Cook’s lomatium is a perennial member of the carrot family, only scientifically recognized in 1986, with pale, yellow flowers and pumpkin-shaped fruits. Only a handful of populations remain at two separate locations separated by 30 miles; one lies in the Illinois River Valley and the other in Rogue River Valley’s Agate Desert.

Large-flowered woolly meadowfoam is a delicate annual with stems and leaves that are covered with short, fuzzy hairs. It is restricted to just a few sites in the Agate Desert of Jackson County in the Rogue River Valley. Both species rely entirely on a few disappearing seasonal wetlands and vernal pools.

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