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For Immediate Release, April 22, 2013

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Two Washington Plants Gain Endangered Species Act Protection With 3,200 Acres of
Protected Critical Habitat

PORTLAND, Ore. — In accordance with an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected two Washington plants under the Endangered Species Act along with 3,205 acres of protected critical habitat in Benton and Franklin counties. The Umtanum desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod are found only in Washington’s Hanford Reach National Monument. The protections are the result of a settlement between the Center and the Service in 2011 to speed up protection decisions for 757 species around the country. 

White Bluffs bladderpod
White Bluffs bladderpod photo by Tim McCracken, USFWS. Photos are available for media use.

“These plants are part of what makes the Hanford Reach, the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River, so special,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “Each of these plants is found on only one spot on Earth, so the Endangered Species Act’s powerful protection is crucial to their survival.”

With today’s decision a total of 56 species have been protected under the 2011 settlement agreement and another 94 have been proposed for protection, including the American wolverine, Gunnison sage grouse and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. 

“Identifying all the pieces of the puzzle that make up our natural world and ensuring they’re not lost is critical to the long-term health of our planet,” said Greenwald. “Under this historic species agreement, a lifeline is being extended to these two plants and dozens of other wildlife species, some of which have waited decades for protection.”

As part of today’s decision, the Service designated 344 acres of protected critical habitat in Benton County for Umtanum desert buckwheat and 2,861 acres of critical habitat in Franklin County for White Bluffs bladderpod. Both plants were discovered during a 1995 botanical survey of the Hanford Reach and made candidates for protection in 1999.

The buckwheat is a woody plant that can live up to 150 years and is limited to a weathered basalt outcrop on the top edge of the Umtanum Ridge in Benton County, where it is threatened by fire, invasive species, off-road vehicle destruction and stray cattle. The bladderpod is a showy flowering perennial limited to the White Bluffs area of the Hanford Reach and threatened by fire, invasive species, ORV damage and landslides caused by seepage from agricultural irrigation. 

The Hanford Reach was designated a national monument in 2000, in part because of its well-recognized plant and animal diversity. Since then, some threats have been reduced. For example, newly constructed fences now keep ORVs and cows away from rare plant populations.

Endangered Species Act protection will trigger development of a recovery plan for these species, as well as further actions to secure their future, including removal of nonnatives, plans to protect them from fire and further protection from irrigation-related harm and recreational activities like ORV use. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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