The article concludes by saying that, "Calls to streamline the ESA and to rely exclusively on FWS to identify and list species
might mean that a significant number of species that deserve legal protection especially those that are politically unpopular because of the potential to obstruct development projects would be left out in the cold."
July-August 2012 Sego Lily published (06/21/12)
The July 2012 newsletter has been published and is now available for public access.
For pictures of Paul Zuckerman's display at Red Butte Garden referred to in the lead article, see:
The May 2012 newsletter has been published and is now available for public access.
Information referred to concerning the upcoming Penstemon festival is also available on the calendar page. Penstemon 2012 Festival poster
Wildflower guides referred to in the newsletter will soon be available on the Store page.
Woody Plants of Utah: A Field Guide with Identification Keys to Native and Naturalized Trees, Shrubs, Cacti, and Vines available for purchase (10/25/11)
Woody Plants of Utah by Renée Van Buren, Janet Cooper, Leila Shultz and Kimball Harper will be available in December
and can be ordered now in book form (an October 24, 2011 Access Utah radio interview with Drs. Van Buren and Shultz has just been added to the book's web page). It will also be available as an e-book when published. The book allows a reader to identify plants based on
November-December 2011 Sego Lily published (10/24/11)
The Nov-Dec newsletter has been published and is now available for public access. This issue
features several in-depth articles concerning pioneer botanist Marcus Jones, as well as tributes to Kimball Harper.
In part to incorporate updated Bureau of Land Management sensitive plant species list information which changed earlier this year, the
rare plants section has been updated.
Kim Harper (1931-2011) (10/8/11)
UNPS was very sad to learn earlier this week that Dr. Kimball T. Harper had died on October 2, 2011 at the age of 80. His contribution to the understanding of Utah's plant ecology is difficult to briefly summarize and can really only
be best covered in a more detailed article. His contributions to education (and the squadron of scientists that are the result of his encouragement and tutlelage), rare plant related research and advocacy, scientific publications, and support for the work of the Utah Native Plant Society were all immense.
A summary of his life and a glimpse into the impact he has had on the lives of others in the field of Utah botany and ecology can be found
Dr. Harper's passing came on the eve of the release of Woody Plants of Utah that has long been in progress and which
he was a co-author along with Renée Van Buren, Janet Cooper and Leila Shultz.
Dr. Kimball T. Harper (courtesy of Dr. Renée Van Buren, photographer unknown)
Kim Harper in 1974 (courtesy of Dr. Duane Atwood)
Dr. Kim Harper and grandson weeding in Clay Phacelia habitat (courtesy of Elaine York, TNC)
September-October 2011 Sego Lily published (8/29/11)
Colorado ruling concludes that FWS violated the ESA in handling a petition to list Graham's penstemon (6/9/11)
In the United States District Court
For the District of Colorado
Civil Action No. 08-cv-2744-WDM-BNB
Center for Native Ecosystems,
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance,
Utah Native Plant Society, and
Colorado Native Plant Society
United States Fish & Wildlife Service and
KEN SALAZAR, in his official capacity as
Secretary of United States Department of the Interior
"For the reasons stated I conclude that FWS violated the ESA in withdrawing the proposed rule to list Graham's penstemon
by failing to consider the threats in combination, ignoring or
disregarding the best available scientific and commercial information,
and relying on undetermined or unspecified conservation measures
which were not implemented or established to be effective.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs' petition is granted to the following extent.
Pursuant to APA, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 706, the December 19, 2006 Final Rule is
vacated and the proposed rule is reinstated. The matter is remanded
to the FWS for further consideration, with all deliberate speed, of a new
Final Rule with respect to whether Graham's penstemon should be listed as
threatened under the Endangered Species Act."
Walker D. Miller
U.S. District Judge
June 9, 2011
Penstemon gibbensii denied ESA protection (6/8/11)
A species that just barely occurs within Utah's borders in the northeastern portion of the state was today, along with several plant species not occurring in Utah, was denied protection under the Endangered Species.
Tony Frates, Utah Native Plant Society, 801-277-9240, email@example.com
Fish and Wildlife Service Decides One of Five Imperiled Plants Warrants Protection
Groups Charge that Service Underestimates Need for Safeguards
Washington, DC-June 8. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has announced that a Wyoming plant, the Fremont County rockcress, warrants protection (listing) under the Endangered Species Act. The Service declined actual protection, citing higher priorities. The agency’s decision comes in response to a July 2007 petition and subsequent lawsuits filed by WildEarth Guardians and a 1975 petition by the Smithsonian. However, the Service rejected protection for four other plants, all found in Wyoming and neighboring states. All have previously been candidates for Endangered Species Act protection. All are ranked critically imperiled by scientists.
“While we’re pleased the Service recognized that the Fremont County rockcress deserves federal protections, we are concerned about the four plants the Service rejected. This agency needs to implement the Endangered Species Act in a more precautionary way,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “We’re seeing species being rejected for legal safeguards that remain in few places and there face risks.”
The Fremont County rockcress (Boechera (Arabis) pusilla) was first made a candidate for listing in 1983. In 1993, the Service recognized it as declining. But in 2000, the agency removed the species from the candidate list on the basis that its threats had lessened. In tomorrow’s finding, the agency has reinstated this plant to the Endangered Species Act candidate list, recognizing that it has just one population, with a total of only 350 plants, and that this small population is declining.
The Service decided against Endangered Species Act protection for the Yellowstone sand verbena, Ross’ bentgrass, precocious milkvetch, and Gibbens penstemon.
The FWS found that the few known populations of the Gibbens penstemon (Penstemon gibbensii) have been negatively impacted by oil and gas drilling, roads, and trampling by humans and livestock, and have no protection from additional impacts due to these threats in the future. Protecting just three hundred acres from these threats could save this beautiful wildflower from extinction. In spite of these facts, the FWS denied the Gibbens penstemon protection under the Endangered Species Act.
“The Gibbens penstemon is a lovely purple wildflower that is highly vulnerable to extinction,” said Megan Mueller, Conservation Biologist with Center for Native Ecosystems. “As a consequence of the FWS decision to deny this wildflower the protection it needs, we are now likely to lose this unique and irreplaceable part of our natural heritage.”
Stated Tony Frates of the Utah Native Plant Society, “Penstemon gibbensii is one of only 32 species with a priority status of ‘extremely high’ as ranked by the Utah Native Plant Society’s rare plant committee, and is one of only a handful of species that occurs in Utah designated as such that has no federal protection [under the Endangered Species Act]. Its total range is very small and is threatened by mineral development and off-road vehicle recreation.” The Utah Native Plant Society has not taken a position on the other four species at issue in the Service’s decision but is concerned that the agency is making it increasingly difficult for imperiled plants to obtain Endangered Species Act protections.
The Yellowstone sand verbena (Abronia ammophila) is found only at four locations totaling 1.5 acres, all on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. While the Service designated this species as a candidate in 1993, it dropped this species from the candidate list, along with thousands of other species, in 1996. A Yellowstone National Park botanist recommended in 2002 that this species be listed under the Endangered Species Act. However, despite recognizing perils from trampling, drought, and climate change to this plant, the Service is denying the plant protection in tomorrow’s finding.
Ross’ bentgrass (Agrostis rossiae) occurs only within limited thermal areas in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. It has 4 populations, which occupy approximately 12 acres. In tomorrow’s finding, the Service writes that geothermal development could threaten this plant. While it states that the Geothermal Steam Act provides protections for the thermal features in the Park, the Service finds, “This law should protect the species, unless high energy costs, such as occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s, encourage development interest that results in changes that weaken these protections.” Current high energy prices should prod protection in the face of this risk. The Smithsonian petitioned for this species to be added to the threatened list in 1975, and the Service designated it a candidate in 1980. The Service also dropped the plant from the candidate list in 1996. In tomorrow’s decision, the agency continues to deny this plant federal listing.
Precocious milkvetch (Astragalus proimanthus) occurs in a limited area around the Henry’s Fork River in Wyoming. It has 3 populations, which collectively inhabit less than 320 acres. The Smithsonian petitioned for this species to be added to the endangered list in 1975, and the Service designated it a candidate in 1980. The Service dropped this species as well from the candidate list in 1996. While the Service recognizes threats from off-road vehicles and energy development, the agency is denying the plant protection in tomorrow’s finding.
Duane Short of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Wyoming said, “As long as the Fish & Wildlife Service embraces a culture of denied protection, imperiled plants and animals must endure an added unnecessary threat to their survival. And that unnecessary threat is, in fact, unwarranted denial of protection.”
There are now more than 260 species of plants and wildlife that are formal “candidates” awaiting federal listing. Over 80 percent of these species were first recognized as needing federal protection more than a decade ago, including all 5 Wyoming plants. Outside of Hawaii, Salazar has listed only 4 new U.S. species under the Act since taking office. At the current pace, it would take a century to get through the backlog of candidate species in the continental U.S. WildEarth Guardians and the Service have reached an agreement to address the candidate backlog in a timely manner; the approval of which is pending in federal court in DC.
For background information, contact Nicole Rosmarino at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-699-7404.
Spurge Purged on May 14, 2011 (text and photos by Tony Frates, 5/14/11)
The 5th annual "Purge your Spurge" event was again held at REI at 3285 East 3300 South in Salt Lake City and hosted by
the Salt Lake County weed program and the Salt Lake Conservation District, and for the third year also included a low cost native plant sale along with the exchange
program involving free native plants for bagged Myrtle spurge.
Other sponsors of the event included REI, Utah Native Plant Society, U.S. Forest Service, Bonneville CWMA, and the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.
Myrtle spurge was listed as a Salt Lake County noxious weed on August 8, 2007. Prior to that time, it was still being sold in the county by local nurseries as it had been since at least the 1950's.
As in past years, participants (carefully and with gloves and goggles) removed as much spurge from their yards (and, with permission, from neighboring yards)
and then received some free native plants (and along with non-spurge pullers, were able to purchase a nice variety of Utah native plants at very low cost) upon presenting their also
carefully bagged catch. This year, a special simultaneous event was also held: a spurge pull in coordination with Salt Lake County in the nearby Grandeur Peak access open space
which contains some significant Myrtle spurge (and Dalmatian toadflax) infestations. Over 30 individuals volunteered for the pull including Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon. The volunteers
received vouchers for free native plants at the REI plant sale.
Volunteers remove spurge in the Grandeur Peak trailhead area
One of many volunteers carefully removes Euphorbia myrsinites
Bags of spurge removed from the nearby natural space in the Grandeur Peak trailhead access area.
Bags of spurge in a SL County noxious weed trailer received for disposal as a result of the general exchange.
Native plant sale as part of the Purge Your Spurge event. New and experienced native plant gardeners welcome!
Invasive Euphorbia myrsinites (myrtle or donkey-tail spurge)
This species of spurge is an escapee from residential plantings and seems to thrive in almost any foothills habitat.
It literally takes areas away from natural/native species already highly stressed by urban sprawl and other invasive species.
Pollinators such as this European honey bee (Apis mellifera) are highly
attracted to the non-native myrtle spurge, a Wasatch Front invasive species. In addition to
having been designated a noxious weed in Salt Lake County, it is a state noxious weed in Colorado.
Myrtle or donkey-tail spurge should not be planted in Utah and because its seeds are easily spread
far and wide from residential plantings, it should be carefully replaced in residential landscaping as well
as eradicated where found in open spaces.
Euphorbia myrsinites seems happy in a multitude of habitats whether under oak, in open grassy areas and even sheer cliff faces. It therefore appears to be a
potential threat to anything growing along the foothills of the Wasatch Front as well as into adjoining canyons. It has for example now become well-established in lower
Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County, Utah. Salt Lake County is not the only place where it is a problem. There are also significant infestations in Utah, Davis, Summit, and southern Weber Cos.
and escapees have been reported in Cache, Iron and Uintah Cos.
Maguire's daisy to be delisted effective Feb. 18, 2011 (1/19/11)
Erigeron maguirei will soon no longer be a federally listed species under the Endangered Species Act.
The reason for the delisting is due to the fact that the species has been found to be more abundant than originally thought as a
result of extensive multi-year surveys that included other, non-listed species. Originally listed as endangered in 1995 and reclassified in 1996 to threatened due to a taxonomic change that technically increased it numbers, only about 5,000 plants were known as of 1998. Further surveys steadily
increased both the number of plants (to over an estimated 160,000) as well as led to the discovery of additional occurrences in its restricted range. The species
will be monitored for another ten years, and will still be considered a globally rare plant species.
The UNPS conservation committee submitted comments in connection with the Gasco DEIS on 11/20/10 expressing a wide number of concerns particularly in connection with various federally listed plant species that occur in the project area.
November-December 2010 Sego Lily published (10/25/10)
The November-December newsletter which features an article on the flora of Rainbow Bridge National Monument has been published and is now available for public access.
The July-August newsletter has been published and is now available for public access.
In this issue: read about The Scarlet Flowered Species of Echinocereus in Utah, an outline of the
species of Echinocereus in Utah and other articles and news items.
Penstemon festival cancelled: nothing yet in bloom (5/26/10)
Unlike Memorial Day weekend of one year ago when many species of Penstemon were at their peak, Merrill Johnson of Great Basin Natives this year reports quite the opposite and has regrettably cancelled this year's planned
"We have had such a cold spring that the wild flowers are two to three
weeks behind," said Johnson. "Last year they were blooming profusely on Memorial Day. This year there is not a bloom to be seen."
While there are exceptions, reports of an unusually late season have been common in 2010 in most parts of the state. Along the central Wasatch Front, plants are also at least two to three weeks late similar to many other areas both in northern and southern Utah.
Despite the fact that worldwide April of 2010 was the warmest on record (since 1880 - see Global Temperatures Hit New April High),
in Utah we have experienced cool temperatures and record precipitation. The cool spring culminated in a snowstorm that reached valley levels in Salt Lake County on May 24, 2010 which
set a record for the latest date measurable snow has fallen at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Judge Delays Ruling On Rare Wildflower (5/20/10)
Paul Day of CBS4 in Denver
reports on yet another delay in the 30-year old struggle to obtain federal protection for the endangered
CBS4 footage dated May 19, 2010 includes brief clips of interviews with Meg Parish of Earthjustice and Erin Robertson of CNE.
San Juan/Four Corners Native Plant Society Forms (4/25/10)
The San Juan/Four Corners Native Plant Society, a part of the San Juan Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New
Mexico, has recently formed. Formerly part of the the Southwest Chapter of the Colorado Native Plant
Society, the group has organized a series of field trips and educational programs in the Four Corners area.
UNPS members and members of the public are invited to participate in these activites.
The May-June newsletter has been published and is now available for public access.
In this issue: catch Viola beckwithii fever, learn about how a beetle is impacting Sclerocactus, recent Forest Service sensitive species changes
and how they affect Utah, and latest news and activities.
Fremont Chapter publishes 2010 Celebrate the Wild calendar (12/20/09)
The Fremont Chapter 2010 calendar is ready to order just in time for holiday giving.
The goal of producing the calendar is to promote and support native plants and waterwise gardening throughout the Intermountain West.
The Celebrate the Wild Calendar is a unique gift that the waterwise gardener and native plant enthusiast will enjoy all year long.
The price is the same as last year, $10.00 each, or $8.00 for 10 or more (plus shipping $1.75 for each calendar).
Any profits from the sale of the calendar will be used to further the
chapter's goals to educate the public about the use of native plants
in landscaping, and native plant appreciation generally.
To order, send a check or money order payable to Fremont Chapter UNPS and mail to:
PO Box 104
Elsinore, UT 84724
For questions or more information, e-mail Janet at e-mail or call 435-527-4866.
January-February 2010 Sego Lily published (12/19/09)
The Fish & Wildlife Service as of September 15, 2009 now officially recognizes that
Sclerocactus glaucus comprises three separate entities with S. glaucus occurring solely in Colorado,
and S. brevispinus and S. wetlandicus occurring solely in Utah in the Uinta Basin.
Cactus expert Dorde Woodruff's response today:
I have to say, I can hardly believe this day has finally come. As a student
of the genus, I have been saying since 1980 (though I was not working in
botany at the time) that Sclerocactus glaucus is not in Utah. Thanks to all
the botanists like Heil, Porter, England (who first described S.
brevispinus), Ulloa, Sinclair, and others whose many days of careful work
has sorted out these species.
As a result of this change, there are now 25 federally listed native plant species that occur in Utah.
This carefully researched article by Deseret News environmental reporter
Amy Joi O'Donoghue discusses some Utah native plant and animal species that the Fish & Wildlife
Service will be reviewing over the next year to determine whether they are warranted
for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Astragalus anserinus becomes a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (9/10/09)
The Goose Creek milkvetch has become a candidate species as a result of positive 12-month finding relating to a petition to list. It was previously identified as a
Utah BLM sensitive species. The finding concluded that listing of the species was warranted but precluded due to other higher priority
FWS actions thereby becoming a candidate species subject to follow-up review. Candidate species have no actual protection afforded to them under the Act but do receive a somewhat elevated amount of concern as a result of the policies of some agencies. No private property
owner restrictions are created as a result of candidate nor listing designations for plant species. Candidate designation in fact provides landowners with opportunities to
take proactive measures and makes other programs available (see the ESA Candidate Conservation link below).
Dr. Susan Meyer is a past chair of the Utah Native Plant Society, our former horticulture chair and previously honored by UNPS
with an award in October of 2007. Bitsy Schultz has designed several of our logos and produced our coloring book.
Along with myrtle spurge and cheatgrass, Dalmatian toadflax is literally taking over the foothills along the Wasatch Front and
has spread into higher elevation areas. It often grows directly within other plants as well as in the open in many different environments effectively
displacing other species. It can be effectively hand pulled particularly in the spring.
" . . . it is the duty of every property owner to control and prevent
the spread of noxious weeds on any land in his possession, or under
his control . . . "
Are wildflower mixes OK? As a "green" wedding favor? (4/7/09)
While UNPS has not formulated a specific policy on this issue, we urge great caution.
The purchase/use of most commercially available wildflower mixes is probably a bad idea. Giving wildflower seeds as a
wedding favor is likely not a terribly green idea as is being touted by the wedding industry (it is a nice sentiment but
ignores a basic understanding of ecology and the disastrous impacts of invasive species).
Please review these and other links before using a wildflower mix or distributing "wildflower" seeds in any fashion:
Best management practices for the oil and gas development in the Intermountain West (3/29/09)
A new free web site is available at http://www.oilandgasbmps.org
which provides information that will aid and guide the responsible development of oil and gas in
Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Included is a database of best management practices currently in use, required and/or recommended
On March 19, 2009 during the 5th Southwest Rare Plant Conference hosted by UNPS on the University of Utah campus,
the U.S. Fish & Wildlife presented Elaine York (West Desert Regional Director for The Nature Conservancy in Utah) with one of their
2008 Recovery Champion awards.
Elaine has worked tirelessly on behalf of numerous rare plant species in Utah, most notably the Holmgren milkvetch and
the Dwarf bearclaw poppy (see Washington County's Endangered Plants for more information).
Purge Your Spurge 2009 and SL Conservation District Native Plant Sale: May 9, 2009 (3/23/09)
Salt Lake County Weed Program Press Release (3/21/09):
PURGE YOUR SPURGE! MYRTLE SPURGE/NATIVE PLANT EXCHANGE May 9, 2009 from 10am-3pm.
This May, don’t miss out on a great opportunity to purge your spurge and rid your garden of myrtle spurge
(or as some call it donkey tail spurge) and receive free Utah native plants in exchange!
Myrtle spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites) is a highly invasive garden plant that is rapidly spreading
in our foothills and canyons. Recently listed as a noxious weed in Salt Lake County, this non-native
species out-competes native vegetation by forming large dense infestations that decrease plant diversity
and wildlife habitat. Join the Bonneville CWMA and its’ partners at REI in Salt Lake City as we work
to protect our canyons by preventing the spread of myrtle spurge in our foothills. On May 9, 2009
bring your bagged myrtle spurge to REI at 3285 East 3300 South, where volunteers will be on hand to take
your plants and in exchange give you 1 of 2 plant mixes containing 5 Utah native plants. Choose from
2 plant communities: full sun and part shade. Each mix contains a variety of outstanding Utah natives,
carefully selected for similar water, soil, and exposure needs. In addition, receive a planting guide
and learn about noxious and invasive species in Salt Lake and what you can do to help prevent their spread.
For more information contact Salt Lake County Weed Program staff at 801-468-2861 or on the web
Fremont Chapter To Offer Plant ID Workshop (2/6/09, by Melinda Greenwood)
The Fremont Chapter of the Utah Native Plant Society will host a Beginners Plant Identification Workshop on Thursday, February 19, at 7 p.m. Plan to meet at the Utah State University Extension conference room, County Administration Building, 250 North Main in Richfield, Utah.
Yearly, residents and visitors of South Central Utah enjoy the gorgeous seasonal flushes of local wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and grasses on our public lands. They often desire to know the established common and botanical names of each.
Wildflowers in full display at a high elevation meadow in South Central Utah
Photograph by Maria Ulloa, BLM Botanist
Former Snow College sciences Instructor, Melinda Greenwood, presently a botanist with the Chicago Botanic Garden, and working out of the Bureau of Land Management’s Richfield Office, will present this workshop on plant identification. Information on flowering times, locations, legal accessing, interesting plant facts, and live and preserved plant study specimens will be available. This workshop is free to the public. Contact 435-896-1518 for more information.
Cedar City area UNPS chapter formed (2/6/09)
UNPS has a new Cedar City Chapter thanks to the efforts of Winnie Washburn and member UNPS residents in the Cedar City area. UNPS members in Iron County will now have a new opportunity to participate
in a local chapter.
Fremont Chapter publishes 2009 Celebrate the Wild calendar (1/28/09)
The Fremont Chapter has published a full color calendar featuring native plants
each month of which is accompanied by informative sidebars. An example of the March 2009 top/bottom
pages is contained below.
The calendar is of particular interest to gardeners and landscapers since it provides ideas and information about
native plant horticulture and use.
Cost of the calendar is $10.00 plus shipping (usually $1.50).
Any profits from the sale of the calendar will be used to further the
chapter's goals to educate the public about the use of native plants
in landscaping, and native plant appreciation generally.
The calendar is available for mailing from J.B. Nielson, Box 104, Elsinore,
UT 84724. Send her an e-mail for more information.
UNPS newsletter 1978 through 2007 digital compilations available (12/23/08)
In celebration of our 30th year, electronic copies of every UNPS newsletter ever produced
is now available from our Newsletters section or directly
here. We are grateful for the efforts of primarily Dr. William Gray and Bill Nelsen who completed this arduous task.
The paper newsletter collections of Keith and Kathy Wallentine, Tony Frates and Duane Atwood were used to produce the digitized versions. In comments about the
archive Bill Gray stated: "My aim was to produce something that recreated as much as possible the appearance of a clean
original paper version, minus the accumulated scuffs, annotations, creases and stains of 30 years. Some of those stains were
undoubtedly coffee, but I suspect that some of them may have been tears during especially bad times for threatened plants."
Bill also acknowledged assistance from Walt Fertig, Ann Kelsey and Patricia Holmgren. In all, over 1800 pages were scanned.
January-February 2009 Sego Lily published (12/21/08)
The January-February 2009 newsletter has been published and is now available for public access.
Read the lead article by Doug Reynolds entitled "Datura and Hawkmoths: An Intoxicating Relationship."
Click here to access all of the latest and prior issues.
For Immediate Release: December 16, 2008
Erin Robertson, Staff Biologist, Center for Native Ecosystems, Denver
Dr. Leila Shultz, Professor Emeritus, Utah State University, Logan (435)
Dr. Vincent Tepedino, Professor Emeritus, Utah State University, Logan
Tony Frates, Utah Native Plant Society, Salt Lake City (801) 277-9240
Sarada Krishnan, Colorado Native Plant Society, Denver (720) 353-1260
Citizens Demand Accountability for Illegal Endangered Species Decision
Interior Dept. Ignored Science in Denying Protections for Graham's
Salt Lake City - Today citizens in Utah and Colorado asked the courts to
overturn the Interior Department's decision to deny Endangered Species
Act protection to a wildflower threatened by oil and gas drilling, tar
sands development, and oil shale mining. In January 2006, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service (an arm of the Interior Department) proposed to add
Graham's penstemon to the endangered species list. But instead of
finalizing protections, in December 2006 the Service suddenly reversed
course and claimed that threats were no longer present.
"I fully support Endangered Species Act protection for Graham's
penstemon," said Dr. Leila Shultz, Professor Emeritus of Wildland
Resources at Utah State University in Logan. "The proposal to protect
the penstemon should never have been withdrawn." Dr. Shultz served as
one of the official peer reviewers of the Service's proposal to protect
the penstemon, and helped discover many of the known populations in the
late 1970s. "When I went back to the penstemon's habitat this fall, I
couldn't believe how many new roads were in there," she added.
Graham's penstemon is a strikingly beautiful wildflower in the
snapdragon family that only occurs on oil shale outcrops in the Uinta
Basin of northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado. The penstemon was
first considered for Endangered Species Act protection in 1975, when the
Smithsonian drafted the first list of plants to be protected under the
Act. After nearly 30 years without action, and with drilling threats
mounting, conservation groups formally petitioned the Service to protect
the penstemon in 2002.
"Graham's penstemon is the polar bear of the Uinta Basin," said Tony
Frates with the Utah Native Plant Society. "With oil and gas drilling,
oil shale mining, and tar sands extraction all ramping up in its
habitat, this wildflower urgently needs the protections of the
Endangered Species Act."
In January 2006 the Service determined that the penstemon needed to be
protected. However, by the end of the same year, the Service abruptly
reversed course and claimed that threats had disappeared.
The Bureau of Land Management (also within the Interior Department)
vigorously opposed Endangered Species Act protection. The Service's
decision to deny protections stated, "we have relied heavily on BLM's
comments" (71 Fed. Reg. 76026 (Dec. 19, 2006)). Although the Service
admitted that 88% of the penstemon's populations were in areas where
active oil and gas exploration was taking place, and that all three of
the formal scientific reviewers of the proposal to protect the penstemon
agreed that protection was necessary, the Service claimed that the BLM's
comments had reassured them that the penstemon would be safe from harm.
However, the BLM's comments were vague and did not commit to new
conservation actions for the penstemon: "While we cannot describe what
the specific conservation measures will be, because they are yet to be
developed, they will incorporate effective conservation measures for
[Graham's penstemon] and other species" (p. 6 of BLM's formal response
to the Service on the January 2006 listing proposal).
"The claim that new scientific information underpinned the decision to
withdraw listing of Graham's penstemon as Threatened is inaccurate,"
stated Dr. Vincent Tepedino, retired government scientist and Adjunct
Professor at Utah State University. "No such evidence exists." For
several years Dr. Tepedino attempted to investigate the penstemon's
pollination biology and its dependence on pollinators, but was thwarted
by the paucity of blooming plants.
The citizens bringing today's lawsuit were forced to sue the BLM under
the Freedom of Information Act earlier to obtain documents that revealed
that the authors of the BLM's comments were known as the "Penstemon 'No
Listing' Team" and the "penstemon strike team". The BLM developed a
"Strategy for Avoiding a Listing of Penstemon" and deliberately
downplayed the possibility of oil and gas drilling in the penstemon's
habitat. This was a challenge; one of the authors emailed other members
of the team saying, "I'm at a loss in how to address the fact that the
entire area may be blanketed by oil and gas proposals."
"Luckily there is an easy fix here," said Sarada Krishnan with the
Colorado Native Plant Society. "The Service should reinstate and
finalize the original protective proposal."
The Endangered Species Act requires that endangered species listing
decisions be based solely on the best available science. Yesterday the
Interior Department's Inspector General released an investigative report
uncovering political interference in 13 other endangered species
decisions. He concluded, "action is necessary to restore the integrity
of the ESA program, and the morale and reputation of the FWS in the eyes
of the public and of Congress."
"Every day more evidence of Interior Department corruption emerges,"
said Erin Robertson, Senior Staff Biologist for Center for Native
Ecosystems in Denver. "With the Bush administration in charge, this
little wildflower didn't stand a chance against the drilling and oil
shale industries. Now it will finally get its day in court."
Today the national Endangered Species Coalition also released a report
titled "Without a Net: Top Ten Wildlife, Fish and Plants Most in Need
of Endangered Species Protection", and included Graham's penstemon as an
Today's lawsuit was filed by Center for Native Ecosystems, Utah Native
Plant Society, Colorado Native Plant Society, and Southern Utah
Wilderness Alliance. The groups are represented by Earthjustice in
BLM updates manual for first time since 2001 (12/15/08)
On December 15, 2008, the BLM announced changes to its 6840 Manual for Management of Special Status Species which had previously not been updated
since 2001. The manual provides guidance to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act and in connection with its special status species program which includes "sensitive" plant species.
Sphaeralcea gierischii becomes a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (12/11/08)
As a result of the work of the Arizona field office of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Utah has for the first time in many years a new Endangered Species Act candidate plant species: Gierisch's globemallow.
Only recognized as a species since 2002 when it was named by Drs. Duane Atwood and Stanley Welsh (in memory of Ralph K. Gierisch, BLM St. George biologist, who also made the first collection in 1978), Gierisch's globemallow occurs
over a very small area of perhaps ten square miles in extreme southwestern Utah (Washington County) and in the Arizona Strip in adjacent Mohave County. Only one population occurs in Utah; the total number of acres occupied by all populations
is estimated to be less than 60 acres. The species is restricted to gypsum or limestone soils primarily on the Harrisburg Member of the Kaibab Formation. Threats include gypsum mining and off road/recreational vehicles.
Four of Utah's candidate plant species were dropped by the Fish & Wildlife Service between 2006 and 2007. Utah's only other candidate species currently is Penstemon scariousus var. albifluvis (White River Penstemon).
Candidate species are species that the Service has sufficient information to proceed with listing but is precluded from doing so by other higher priority activites. By publishing a species for candidate status, it is then hoped that collaborative action will
be taken in conjunction with federal programs that then become available to avoid having to list the species. So while it affords no additional legal protection, candidate status confers real benefits to an imperiled species. In this case, because Gierisch's globemallow
was not previously on the BLM sensitive species list (despite prior UNPS recommendations that it be added), the publication of this species as a federal candidate means that it is now a de facto BLM sensitive species in Utah.
No plant species that occurs in Utah has been newly listed under the Endangered Species Act since 2001. While species have been proposed for delisting, no new plant species have been voluntarily listed under the Bush administration. Currently there are 24 federally listed plant species that occur in Utah.
Where was Salt Lake County's monsoon in 2008? (12/5/08 by Tony Frates)
In reflecting on the extended and beautiful fall we had this year, some of us are wondering what happened to our August monsoon along the central Wasatch Front.
The Salt Lake area normally experiences what some refer to as a "desert monsoon" (of typically lesser intensity than what occurs in arid areas in the southern half of the state; these are primarily short periods of wind pattern changes that in the western U.S. tend to bring additional moisture). This
generally occurs in August and leads to a daily afternoon/early evening pattern consisting of dark clouds and thunderstorm type activity, somewhat cooler temperatures, some amount of increased precipitation and higher
levels of humidity for a period of a week to ten days or longer. In 2008 this never happened.
Long-time resident Salt Lake valley resident and UNPS member Dorde Woodruff notes that in some 50 plus years of living here, this is the first summer she can remember when the summer monsoon never came.
Some northern locations received some spotty rain. But, "where I live there was none for two months" said Dorde, who
particularly noticed it while trying to maintain a vegetable garden.
The Salt Lake area does not normally receive the kind of extreme weather that produces anything like the catastrophic weather that often occurs during monsoons experienced in
other parts of the world. But, our highly publicized downtown Salt Lake City tornado occurred in August (of 1999).
A November 12, 2008 USA Today article Shrinking Great Salt Lake finally easing up (by AP writer Mike Stark) concludes that the shrinking of the lake has stopped, despite acknowledging that the temperatures through the
fall of 2008 have placed the lake at its near lowest level (currently the lake is at 4,194 feet, the lowest recorded was 4,191 feet in 1963; the lake has been at about the 4,200 foot level for the last 10,000 years).
The National Weather Service reports that the Salt Lake area had the fifth warmest July ever recorded this year,
with only three days of thunderstorm activity (normal is seven), and with record high minimums on July 4 and July 26 (both of 77 degrees).
In August, until the last day of the month, NWS categorizes the weather as "hot and dry" and we experienced only three days of thunderstorm activity (eight days is normal).
On August 1 we set a record high maximum of 103 degrees; on August 24 we set a record high maximum of 99 followed on the 25th by a
record high minimum of 72.
In September our weather was described as "warm and very dry" with two days of thunderstorms (four is normal). Ski resorts have delayed
their openings as November was also very dry with some areas receiving no precipitation.
Local weather reports have mentioned how dry it was but not that a seasonal weather pattern was completely missed. Why was there no desert monsoon this year along the central Wasatch Front, and what impact did it have on the local native plants (and therefore wildlife)?
Botany connection: see the entry relating to the May 27, 1941 twister near Woods Cross. Legendary University of Utah botanist Dr. Walter Cottam was apparently collecting
plants for a botany class in the Mueller Park area and ended up taking what are reported as possibly the first published photographs of a Utah twister. May is a less likely monthly
than August, but a more recent small tornado that occurred in Salt Lake County happened in the Holladay/Cottonwall Mall area on May 25, 2000.
An odd sight for late November in northern Utah (11/22/08, updated 11/29/08)
Astragalus utahensis (Utah milkvetch, lady's slipper or Utah ladyslipper) was in flower November 22, 2008 in Salt Lake County (4,500 ft. elevation, lower Dimple Dell Regional Park). Normally this species blooms as early as late March and finishes
flowering in May or at the latest by early June in our area and is not usually known to bloom again here (although legume expert Rupert Barneby in Vol. 3B of the Intermountain Flora indicates that the species sometimes blooms again in late August to September). Late season warm temperatures are confusing the local flora. Note the white, furry, decaying pods (fruits) from flowers
of likely well over six months ago.
Astragalus utahensis, Copyright 2008 Tony Frates
Dr. William "Bill" Gray reports that on November 29, 2008 he observed the same thing on the slopes above City Creek in the Ensign Peak area.
Here again Astragalus utahensis (despite several consecutive days of quite cold weather since the 22nd) was found in bloom. He did not observe
any damage caused by frost, and many green leaves.
Astragalus utahensis, Copyright 2008 William Gray
Other solitary native plants he observed that were in bloom included Machaeranthera canescens, Eriogonum
brevicaule, Gutierrezia sarothrae, and Haplopappus rydbergii.
Other native plant blooms observed here in the last week include Erigeron divergens (Dimple Dell, City Creek area, foothills south of Red Butte Garden, Olympus Hills Park),
and Aster ascendens. While it is unusually late in the year for these other species to be blooming, they commonly bloom late into the fall every year (unlike Astragalus utahensis).
It has been an amazing fall along the central Wasatch Front.
Here is what Utah milkvetch looks like when it is flowering in the spring:
Astragalus utahensis, Copyright 2008 Tony Frates
Dick Hildreth Speaks at 30th Anniversary Meeting (11/8/08)
At our annual meeting on November 7, 2008 in Salt Lake City, a new board was elected (the names of those new board members are listed below).
Inasmuch as this was also our 30th anniversary, we were very pleased that co-founder Richard "Dick" Hildreth (who now lives in Arizona) was in attendance and he also spoke and participated in
discussions concerning the early history of UNPS based on a presentation that first state president Dr. Duane Atwood made at a rare plant conference in March of 2008. Duane could not attend due to family illness, but we used his
outline as a guide and did our best to recreate that earlier presentation, and members in the audience helped to fill in the gaps.
A number of members from Ogden, Logan, Richfield, Orem/Provo, Park City and other areas surrounding Salt Lake attended the meeting and a small army of members helped to organize and perform various tasks in
conjunction with the event, including co-presidents Dr. William "Bill" Gray and Bill King, both of whom also spoke at the meeting, and Salt Lake Chapter President, Kipp Lee.
We were also honored by the presence of Intermountain Flora authors Drs. Noel Holmgren and Patricia Holmgren. Noel's father,
the late Dr. Arthur "Art" Holmgren was a participant in the earliest UNPS organizational meeting in 1978 and served on the first
UNPS board of directors along with Richard Hildreth (the first chairperson), Duane Atwood, Mike Alder, Walter Miller,
Dr. Irving "Bill" McNulty, Dr. Elizabeth Neese, Richard Page, Ed Schlatterer, Bob Thompson and
Dr. Stanley Welsh
Co-president Gray announced the completion of a large project to digitally archive the first 30 years of Utah Native Plant Society newsletters (called the Sego Lily for most, but not all, of the period from late 1978 thru the end of 2007), a project which he
spearheaded. A DVD containining the archive was made available for free to all attending members; the DVD will soon be
made available for purchase for a small fee primarily to cover production and mailing costs.
Tony Frates was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
2009 board members:
November-December 2008 Sego Lily published (Special 30th Anniversary Issue) (10/29/08)
New and Updated Flora ID DVD Products Available (9/24/08)
In addition to the Utah flora DVD key from Flora ID Northwest
(which now has twice as many images as prior versions), the Nevada key along with two new regional keys,
the Great Basin (which includes Utah and Nevada) and the Rocky Mountain Region, are now also available.
Fremont Chapter Hosts October 4, 2008 event (9/22/08)
Another legendary Utah botanist lost: Dr. Elizabeth J. Neese, 1934-2008 (8/26/08 by Tony Frates)
Botanist Elizabeth Neese died at her California home in El Cerrito on August 10, 2008 at the age of 73.
Liz worked on the floras of Utah, Nevada and California. She was a co-author of the Uinta Basin Flora published in 1986. She rediscovered and discovered a number of plant species in Utah and was the author/co-author of numerous others. One of her most
famous rediscoveries was Astragalus desereticus in 1981; the "Deseret" milkvetch, which occurs in central Utah and prior to Liz's discovery was thought to be possibly extinct, is now a federally listed
species. An example of a species that Liz discovered in 1982 (and later named by Dr. Stanley Welsh and her) was Hymenoxys lapidicola, endemic to Uintah County and also rare. With Frank J. Smith, she named Gilia tenuis, the Mussentuchit gilia, in 1989. Plants named in her honor that also relate to Neese discoveries include Lepidium montanum var. neeseae and Astragalus desperatus var. neeseae (synonymized with Astragalus equisolensis, the "Horseshoe" milkvetch, formerly a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act and which she and Dr. Welsh found in May of 1979 and that they named A. equisolensis in 1981). More recently named taxa recognizing Elizabeth include Astragalus megacarpus var. neeseae (named in 2003, known only from Mesa County, Colorado) and Physaria neeseae (named in 2008 from the Henry Mtns). And from the hanging gardens of southeastern Utah, Welsh & Neese named the alcove rock-daisy,
Perityle specuicola, in 1983.
More Uinta Basin taxa on which Liz left her mark include Penstemon flowersii (which she and Susan M. White discovered and that she and Welsh named in 1983, and which was named posthumously in honor of the University of Utah's moss/lichen specialist, Dr. Seville Flowers), Yucca harrimaniae var. sterilis (new variety which she and again Welsh named in 1985, now regarded by Welsh & Higgins as Yucca sterilis), and Penstemon duchesnensis (which Liz raised to the species level in 1986, based on the prior name of P. dolius var. duchesnensis N. Holmgren).
Liz was part of a small group of botanists who met in September of 1978 which led to the formation of the
Utah Native Plant Society, and she was one of our first state officers and served on our very first UNPS board of directors.
With Kaye Thorne, she was the co-editor of the UNPS newsletter in 1981, and she served as the state president in 1983. She remained actively involved in
UNPS throughout the 1980's leading UNPS flower walks in Albion Basin and serving as one of our experts at UNPS Unidentified Flowering
Object meetings held in Salt Lake City.
For more information about the Horseshoe milkvetch as well as Elizabeth Neese, see the September-October 2008Sego Lily.
UNPS Annual Meeting To Be Held on Friday, November 7, 2008 (8/22/08)
Each year UNPS holds an Annual Members Meeting which has traditionally included three main elements:
a "New World Pot Luck" lunch or supper featuring foods native to the Americas (classics include turkey, potatoes, tomatoes, yams, blueberries); a featured speaker who has something important to say about our native plants and UNPS; a brief business meeting at which the members elect a board of directors (BOD) for the following year.
In recent years we have cycled among the three population centers of Utah Valley, Salt Lake, and Cache Valley, and it is the Salt Lake chapter's turn to host the 2008 meeting. This being our 30th anniversary we hope that as many people as possible will make a special effort to attend: we will do our best to arrange 'home stay' accomodation for anyone traveling from out of the area.
Our venue is the Sugarhouse Garden Center, 1602 East 2100 South, Salt Lake City (see driving instructions and map below) which has good meeting rooms and a large kitchen for heating and preparing food. Arrive any time from 5:30 pm, to socialize and help get things setup. We expect to start eating between 6:15 and 6:30. Our speaker for this special occasion will be Dr. Duane Atwood: Duane was one of the founding members of UNPS and its first president. Over the years he has made many contributions to our understanding of Utah's plants and to work on their behalf. Earlier this year, at the Utah Rare Plant Conference, he gave a retrospective talk on the early years of UNPS and was presented with our Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding work.
Driving instructions (see map below): from north or south, take the eastbound I-80 exit from I-15, and exit
again at 1300 East (about 2 miles). Proceed north by Sugarhouse Park, turn right on 2100 South. The Garden Center is located in the extreme northeast corner of the park, with its own parking lot (not accessible from Sugarhouse Park).
Oil and gas development is already beginning to impact areas where the Penstemon is found. In an effort to plan for and mitigate further degradation, a group of Conservancy staff, partners and volunteers took critical action by searching for and recording the location of a rare bloom found nowhere else on Earth.
"With the increased interest in oil shale, it is important to map the plant's habitat in advance," said Joan Degiorgio, Northern Mountains Regional Director for the Utah Chapter. "This will help energy development companies avoid these areas and guarantee the future of the Penstemon."
UNPS to host 5th Southwest Rare Plant Conference (6/20/08)
The Utah Native Plant Society will be hosting the next Southwest Rare Plant Conference (which will incorporate
the annual Utah Rare Plant Task Force Conference). The event entitled Changing Landscapes in the Southwest will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah on the University
of Utah campus from March 16 through 20, 2009. Topics will range from rare plant issues (Southwest region
as well as Utah) plant community and ecological restoration, climate change issues and others. Format will include posters,
presentations and breakout sessions. There will be a published proceedings from this conference. Dr. Noel Holmgren will be
our keynote speaker
This promises to be a great networking and informational event with leading ecologists and botanists from both public agencies and private industry of
the region! Please join us.
UNPS honored Dr. Cottam on May 4, 1979 (photo credit: Duane Atwood).
Remembering USU botanist Dr. Richard J. Shaw (1923-2008)
Dr. Shaw died on April 21, 2008. His wife Ida Marion Shaw died on February 23, 2008.
Dr. Shaw wrote a number of plant guides (both technical and general) including Utah Wildflowers: A Field Guide To Northern And Central Mountains And Valleys, Wildflowers of the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains, Vascular Plants of Northern Utah, Plants of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and Plants of Waterton-Glacier National Parks, and the Northern Rockies. He was an accomplished photographer, filling his books with excellent photos and leaving a large collection of slides at the Intermountain Herbarium. He was Professor Emeritus, Emeritus Director of the Intermountain Herbarium and sponsor of the Richard J. and Marion A. Shaw Endowed Scholarship at Utah State University. See also Utah Tributes.
UNPS Cache members enjoyed Dr. Shaw's evening "wildflower walks" near Green Canyon
(click here for photo) and he was the featured speaker at the 2003 UNPS Annual Meeting of the Members held in Logan, Utah.
UNPS recognizes Duane Atwood with Lifetime Achievement Award (4/21/08)
Dr. N. Duane Atwood receives lifetime achievement awards
On March 4, 2008 at the annual rare plant task force meeting in Salt Lake City, the Utah Native Plant Society presented
Dr. N. Duane Atwood with a lifetime achievement award. The presentation was made following Duane's keynote
speech relating to the early history of UNPS and the future of systemic botany in Utah.
In September of 1978 Duane was part of a small group of botanists that led to the founding of UNPS later that
year and became the first president of UNPS serving in that capacity for several years (and continuing on as a board member for many years). But his contributions only begin there.
PURGE YOUR SPURGE! MYRTLE SPURGE/NATIVE PLANT EXCHANGE on April 26, 2008 (3/31/08)
Salt Lake County Weed Program Press Release (3/21/08):
This April, don’t miss out on a great opportunity to purge your spurge
and rid your garden of myrtle spurge (or as some call it donkey tail spurge)
and receive free Utah native plants in exchange! Myrtle spurge
(Euphorbia myrsinites) is a highly invasive garden plant that is rapidly spreading
in our foothills and canyons. Recently listed as a noxious weed in Salt Lake
County, this non-native species out-competes native vegetation by forming large
dense infestations that decrease plant diversity and wildlife habitat. Join the
Bonneville CWMA and its partners at REI in Salt Lake City as we work to protect
our canyons by preventing the spread of myrtle spurge in our foothills. On
April 26th, 2008 bring your bagged myrtle spurge to REI at 3285 East 3300 South,
where volunteers will be on hand to take your plants and in exchange give you
1 of 3 plant mixes containing 5 Utah native plants. Choose from 3 plant communities:
Full sun/ buckwheat mix, full sun/ penstemon mix, and part shade/ columbine mix.
Each mix contains a variety of outstanding Utah natives, carefully selected for
similar water, soil, and exposure needs. In addition, receive a planting guide
and learn about noxious and invasive species in Salt Lake and what you can do to
help prevent their spread. For more information contact Salt Lake County Weed Program
staff at 801-468-2861 or on the web at www.weeds.slco.org.
A new web site dedicated dedicated to helping you find things in bloom in Utah (and particularly along the Wasatch Front) is now available. It will contain notes, photos and maps of what's happening with our native plants and is authored by UNPS co-president and Cyberflora CD creator, Dr. William Gray.
The updated Digital Atlas of Utah Plants is available at http://earth.gis.usu.edu/plants/index.html.
The atlas is an invaluable reference work spearheaded by Dr. Leila Shultz and represents an update to the printed volume (and prior on-line electronic equivalent of the printed volume).
Checklists are available by ecoregion. Since the 1988 atlas, some 500 name changes have occurred. The common name, growth habit, duration
and nativity has been provided for each species. Also included are some 400 rare and newly described taxa based on over 6,000 new collection sites. Synonyms are
in brown italics and rare plants are shown in red letters.