Judge overrules feds’ refusal to list as endangered Utah wildflowers that grow on oil shale

By: Brian Maffly, The Sale Lake Tribune

A federal judge intends to vacate a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to not list two rare desert wildflowers whose range overlaps with Utah’s rich oil shale deposits in Uintah County.

Denver-based U.S. District Judge William Martinez faulted the decision’s reliance on a conservation agreement that he doubts would adequately protect Graham’s and White River beardtongue, issuing a decision Tuesday that could upset a landmark deal to keep the plants off the endangered species list.

The FWS and federal land agencies hammered out the conservation agreement two years ago with Colorado and Utah, counties with oil shale potential, and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA), pulling concessions from these pro-development stakeholders intended to mute the potential that oil shale mining would displace beardtongue.

Martinez found some of the agreement’s provisions inadequate and is giving its signatories several months to work with environmentalists to fix them. If a deal can’t be reached, the judge will enter the order, which could lead to a listing of the two wildflowers — something some environmentalists would like to see.

Such groups hailed his decision, which they say repudiates a flawed conservation plan.

Read more at The Salt Lake Tribune.

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