Colorado waits decades for three flowers to get Endangered Species Act protection

DeBeque phacelia © Center for Native Ecosystems

Parachute Penstemon photo © Steve O'Kane

From a June 22, 2010, Center for Biological Diversity press release:

After languishing on the federal government’s official waiting list for more than 20 years, three imperiled Colorado wildflowers may be given protection under the Endangered Species Act, according to a proposal due out tomorrow from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The three flowers — Parachute Penstemon (Penstemon debilis), DeBeque phacelia and Pagosa Skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha) — have been candidates for Endangered Species Act protection since at least 1990. In the case of DeBeque phacelia, the tiny West Slope wildflower has been an official candidate since 1980. All three occur in very limited geographic areas on Colorado’s West Slope and are threatened by industrial development. In the cases of Parachute Penstemon and DeBeque phacelia, oil and gas drilling, as well as experimental oil-shale development, are the primary threats.

Under the Bush administration, listing of new species ground to a near halt with only a total of 62 species listed, compared to 522 under Clinton and 231 during the senior Bush presidency. And even with today’s proposal, the Obama administration has not substantially increased the pace of species listings. The administration has proposed protection for a total of nine species, and the three today were the first proposed since July 9 of last year, meaning that few species are likely to see protection in the coming year. The administration did finalize a proposal from the previous administration to protect 48 species on the island of Kauai, but in the continental U.S. has finalized protection for only two plants. With today’s announcement, 250 species remain on the backlog of species waiting for protection, including seven added by the Obama government.

Read more here.

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