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Deseret News
Rare plants under consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON — Three Utah plants — Frisco buckwheat, Frisco clover and Ostler's peppergrass — merit protection under the Endangered Species Act, but the federal government has declined making the official listing because of higher priorities.

The decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar comes as a result of a 2007 petition filed by WildEarth Guardians. Initially the group had sought protections for more than 200 species of plants and animals, a list that was winnowed to 29, about half of which are found in Utah.

Frisco buckwheat occurs only at four sites on private land in the southern San Francisco Mountains in Beaver County, also where Ostler's peppergrass grows. Frisco clover is limited to five known locations on mountain ranges in Millard and Beaver counties.

WildEarth was joined by the Utah Native Plant Society in praising Salazar's decision, but are urging that the government actually list them to give them protections under the Endangered Species Act.

"By obtaining some federal recognition, it will encourage (but not restrict) private landowners to work cooperatively to protect their limited habitats and avoid extinction," said Tony Frates, conservation co-chairman and Utah rare plant guide coordinator for the Utah Native Plant Society.

Frates said such a listing would not be a "project stopper" for landowners because unlike animals, plants do not have "rights" on private land.

— Amy Joi O'Donoghue