HomeU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Releases Proposed Penstemon Conservation Agreement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Releases Proposed Penstemon Conservation Agreement

The Trust Lands Administration, the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordination Office (PLPCO), and Uintah County reached a tentative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on a proposed conservation plan for two related species of penstemon found in the Uintah Basin. The FWS recently released the draft conservation agreement, and is accepting public comments through July 7. It is hoped the plan may preclude the need for the FWS to list Graham’s and White River beardtongue penstemon as ‘threatened’ under the federal Endangered Species Act. Both species are endemic to the Uintah Basin and federal listing could impact Utah’s oil shale industry severely. Under the proposed agreement, certain areas of plant habitat would be protected from development for the 15-year term of the agreement, while other habitat areas could be released for development. The proposed agreement specifies 44,000 acres of conservation areas, including federal, state trust and private lands. Inside the conservation areas, ground disturbance would be limited to 5 percent of the land set aside for Graham’s beardtongue and 2.5 percent for the rarer White River beardtongue. No disturbance would occur within 300 feet of a plant. The agreement creates a conservation team that includes SITLA to supervise additional scientific efforts to study the plants and means of enhancing and restoring their habitat. SITLA, PLPCO and Uintah County all provided funding to scientific consultants to develop the proposed agreement in conjunction with FWS.

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