Conservation Groups Seek Emergency Protection for Rare Idaho Flower

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Western Watersheds Project, The Committee for Idaho's High Desert, The Wilderness Society, and the Idaho Conservation League filed an emergency listing petition today seeking ESA protection of the slickspot peppergrass a rapidly disappearing plant species unique to Idaho.

The four groups filed for legal protection of the rare flower which is threatened with extinction by an invasion of non-native weeds in the Snake River plain and the Owyhee plateau caused by livestock trampling and grazing, road construction, and off-road vehicles.

"When it comes to Idaho's outdoor heritage, we need to look at all the parts," said Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League. "Today the slickspot peppergrass is disappearing, tomorrow it will be sage grouse, or mountain quail, or big horn sheep," added Johnson.

The groups asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) under the Endangered Species Act on an expedited basis. The Service has called the disappearance rate of this flowering plant "the highest known of any Idaho rare plant species."

"The Air Force has bulldozed the heart of this plant's habitat with the new Bombing Range, and now both the Air Force and the BLM plans massive grazing increases in this same area of Owyhee County," said Katie Fite of Committee for Idaho's High Desert.

Last year, the Fish and Wildlife Service was on a fast track to list the plant as endangered. Political pressure from Idaho's congressional delegation stopped the agency from completing the listing process. The Service went so far as to prepare a press release announcing the listing.

"This petition will test the resolve of the Fish and Wildlife Service to actually do its job," said Jon Marvel of Western Watersheds Project. "Extinction is forever, and this flower is in serious trouble," said Craig Gehrke of the Wilderness Society.