NEWS RELEASE – for immediate release September 27, 2004
BIOLOGISTS GO TO COURT FOR MOJAVE RARE PLANT HABITAT
Initially discovered in 1941 but not rediscovered again until 1979, the rare Holmgren milkvetch (Astragalus holmgreniorum, named in honor of Drs. Noel and Patricia Holmgren and also known as Paradox milkvetch), and the Shivwits milkvetch (Astragalus ampullarioides, also known as Shem milkvetch, in reference to a site where the species was first found in 1976) were both listed as endangered species by FWS on 9/28/01, under an agreement with the Center. Both species occur only in
There are only three known populations of Holmgren milkvetch. The primary population lives within a limited area south of St. George along the Utah-Arizona border. This population is seriously threatened by a proposed interchange that would connect I-15 to the proposed Southern Corridor highway, as well as urban sprawl planned by the state of
The Shivwits milkvetch lives on only five known sites. Most habitat at one site that formerly harbored several hundred plants was nearly destroyed by a recent golf course development. Both species are also threatened by non-native invasive plant species, off-road vehicles, mining, and livestock grazing.
Habitat destruction is the primary threat to both of these endemic species. “These species are truly in peril”, said Dr. Renee Van Buren, a Botanist with Utah Valley State College who specializes in endangered species. “Critical habitat protection is essential to prevent their extinction, and promote recovery.”
A primary purpose of the ESA is to provide a mechanism so that “…the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved…” These species are severely restricted geographically, just as if they were living on islands. Typically rare plant species have adapted to specific soil types and microenvironments outside of which they cannot survive. This includes a complex association with other species, including ground nesting, solitary native bees (rare plants usually do not self-pollinate). Therefore, it is essential to protect the habitat in which these plants thrive in order to ensure the continued existence of these species.
FWS’ own data proves that endangered plants & animals with critical habitat are less likely to be declining, and twice as likely to be recovering, than those without. Yet, FWS has designated critical habitat for only 37% of endangered wildlife in
While not the case for most of
“Critical habitat works – it’s the most important action to recover endangered species,” said Daniel R. Patterson, Ecologist with the Center. “As wildlife habitat in the
Plaintiffs are represented by attorney Robin Cooley of the Center’s Environmental Law Clinical Partnership at the
More on the conservation and recovery benefits of critical habitat: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/programs/policy/ch/sub1.html
Holmgren milkvetch, a
Photos by Tony Frates, UNPS