Press Release: BLM Agrees to Consider Protecting 64,720 Acres of Habitat for Rare Wildflowers

For Immediate Release
Contact: Megan Mueller, Senior Conservation Biologist, Rocky Mountain Wild, 303-704-9760

Habitat for critically imperiled plants will be considered for permanent protection through designation as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

Graham's penstemon
Photo by Kevin Megown/USFS

Meeker, CO (August 5, 2016) – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced this week that 64,720 acres of habitat for critically imperiled wildflowers, in four separate areas, would be considered for protection through designation as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). In the meantime, the areas will be provided with some protection from oil shale mining, oil and gas development and other threats.

“This is a positive step towards protecting habitat that several lovely and critically imperiled wildflowers depend on for survival from oil shale mining and oil and gas development”, said Megan Mueller, Senior Conservation Biologist with Rocky Mountain Wild. “Protecting these areas of habitat will also benefit big game and songbirds, and protect important historical and cultural resources.”

Four species of critically imperiled wildflowers depend on habitat in the areas being considered for protection. Graham’s penstemon and White River penstemon live only on oil shale formations in Colorado and Utah. Oil shale and tar sands mining and traditional oil and gas drilling threaten 100 percent of known White River penstemon populations and over 85 percent of the known Graham’s penstemon populations. These two species are the focus of an ongoing legal battle over whether they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Dudley Bluffs twinpod and Dudley Bluffs bladderpod are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Protecting their habitat will help them to recover so that they no longer need Endangered Species Act protection.

“We urge the BLM to act quickly to protect habitat that is crucial to the survival of several lovely wildflowers, by designating Areas of Critical Environmental Concern,” said Megan Mueller, Senior Conservation Biologist with Rocky Mountain Wild. “This will help ensure that these wildflowers will not be pushed to the brink of extinction by oil shale mining and oil and gas drilling.”

Rocky Mountain Wild (RMW) nominated the areas in question for designation as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) in 2007. The BLM failed to conduct a timely evaluation of the nominations, and RMW submitted a protest to the BLM State Director in April 2015. The State Director ordered the White River BLM Field Office to evaluate RMW’s ACEC nominations. BLM conducted an evaluation and determined that the four areas in question met the criteria to be considered for ACEC designation. BLM will consider the areas for ACEC designation during the next plan amendment process. In the meantime, BLM established interim protection for the four areas.

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