A small plant called the Gierisch mallow, found in southwestern Utah and Arizona, is the only addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's list of candidates for endangered species listings released Wednesday.
There are only nine places known where the flowering plant thrives in rocky desert soil. According to the agency, the biggest threats to the mallow are gypsum mining in Arizona and off-road vehicle use in Utah.
Seven plants and animals in Utah are among 251 species across the United States that are part of an annual list proposed for inclusion on the endangered species list.
In addition to the Gierisch mallow, other Utah candidates include the Gunnison's prairie dog, fat-whorled pondsnail, yellow-billed cuckoo, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle, the relict leopard frog and the White River beardtongue.
Another Utah species, a mollusk called the Ogden mountainsnail, was one of only two species removed from the list.
"A couple of these are fairly obscure species," said Larry Crist, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Utah office. "Candidate species mean that there is enough information to warrant a review of their status and threats to them. It does not mean that we are proposing them for listing. It means that there is just enough information out there that we should take a look at them."
Listing can be controversial because giving a plant or animal protection could limit use of public and private land in a variety of ways, including limiting use of off-highway vehicles or development.
Crist said many endangered species reviews are ordered by courts, are petitioned by private conservation groups, or are prompted by litigation. For example, the least chub in Utah's west desert, currently not on a candidate list, is being reviewed by court order because it could be affected if Las Vegas uses underground water for a proposed, controversial pipeline.
As part of this review, the Fish and Wildlife Service is soliciting additional information on the candidate species, as well as information on species that may be eligible in the future.
"We strongly encourage collaborative conservation efforts for all candidate species from federal agencies, tribes, and private organizations," said service director H. Dale Hall. "The service will continue to offer technical and financial assistance to support these efforts."
Candidate species do not receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, although the service works to conserve them. Identification of candidate species provides resource managers with advance notice of animals and plants in need of conservation, allowing them to address threats before the species are listed.