Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Courtesy photo) The White River Beardtongue is a candidate for listing as protected under the Endangered Species Act. It is found in eastern Utah and western Colorado.
Feds propose listing two plants found only over Utah oil shale
Environment » Two species of beardtongue have been pending 30 years for listing as endangered.
First Published Aug 05 2013 05:19 pm • Last Updated Aug 05 2014 10:26 pm

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing two rare plant species, both endemic to the Uinta Basin, for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Graham’s beardtongue and White River beardtongue, which grace eastern Utah’s barren landscapes with pink and lavender blossoms in the spring, warrant listing as threatened because their range has been reduced by oil and gas development, invasive species and grazing, according to the proposal posted Monday on the Federal Register.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

These beardtongue species grow mostly on Utah’s "Mahogany ledge" where oil shale deposits rich in calcium carbonate touch the surface, according to Bekee Hotze of the service’s Utah office. The state’s energy industry is eager to mine this resource which underlies the Uinta Basin in great abundance.

"Listings for these species have been pending for 30 years. It’s about time. It’s been through two lawsuits. No other plant species parallels what it has gone through to this point," said Tony Frates, conservation co-chairman for the Utah Native Plant Society.

Frates’ group had successfully challenged the service’s 2006 decision withdrawing Graham’s beardtongue from consideration as a protected species.

Beardtongue, also known as penstemon, are shrubby perennial members of the figwort family.

Fish and Wildlife’s new proposed listings seeks to designate 68,000 acres of critical habitat, two-thirds of which is federal land, for Graham’s beardtongue. About 40 percent of the 15,000 acres to be designated for the rarer White River beardtongue is federal. Most of this land is in Uintah County, with some in neighboring Colorado and Duchesne County.

Designated habitat on state and private land will have little impact on how the land is used should the listings become final, according to Larry Crist, who supervises the service’s Utah field office.

"Unless there is a federal nexus there is no protection," Crist said. Some of the proposed habitat does overlap lands leased for oil shale development, which often requires strip mining.

Monday’s posting opens a 60-day public comment period until Oct. 7 with a final decision a year out. Before finalizing critical habitat, the service will apply an economic impact model to ensure benefits outweigh the cost of designation, officials said.

story continues below
story continues below

Critical habitat designation does not preclude development, but in the case of beardtongue it would obligate the Bureau of Land Management to consult with Fish and Wildlife before authorizing any new projects on these lands to explore way to minimize impacts to the plant.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.