January 9, 2007
KEMPTHORNE CONTINUES UNLAWFUL POLITICAL INTERFERENCE
Hailey, Idaho – Conservationists condemned the Secretary of Interior’s decision issued January 8, 2007 to deny federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for Slickspot peppergrass, a rare desert flower found in southern Idaho. The Secretary has for the fourth time in as many years bowed to pressure from the livestock industry and Idaho politicians, and rejected the unanimous recommendation of his own scientists to list this rare species under the protections of the ESA.
Western Watersheds Project, a Hailey based conservation group, had petitioned to list the species under the ESA and will continue a lengthy legal battle to gain that protection.
“A federal court has already found that Slickspot peppergrass stands on the precipice of extinction,” said Todd Tucci, senior attorney with Advocates for the West. “It is thus incredible for the Secretary to claim that populations are stable. Slickspot peppergrass populations are about as stable as flying into the Baghdad International Airport.”
Slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) is a native desert flower, found only in small parts of southern Idaho within the sage-steppe ecosystem. As its name suggests, this flower grows only where puddles or small pools form after rains or snow, and then dry up in the hot arid climate. Populations of this rare desert flower have been reduced to approximately 100 acres, and federal and state scientists have documented that the primary threats to this flower are livestock trampling and grazing, off-road vehicles, agriculture developments. (for photos and more information please see: http://www.westernwatersheds.org/facts_photos/LEPA/LEPA.html)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has known since 1990 that this species warrants protection under the ESA. In 2000, 2002, 2003 and now in 2006, experts within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife have proposed to protect this species under the ESA. And each and every time, the political appointees within the Bush Administration have discarded the scientific evidence, and rejected the recommendations of the botanists and other scientists.
“Secretary Kempthorne evidently supports political interference with ESA decision-making as much as his predecessor,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of plaintiff Western Watersheds Project. “Scientific data are no longer factors to inform ESA-listing decisions.”
Western Watersheds has pledged to continue the legal fight for the protections necessary to ensure that this rare desert flower avoids extinction.
“We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate what every independent scientists has known for years – that Slickspot peppergrass warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act,” said Tucci.