Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 29, 2021


Quinn Read, (206) 979-3074,

Golden Paintbrush Is Latest Endangered Species Act Success Story

Populations of Beautiful Prairie Flower Have Recovered in Western Washington, Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to remove a flowering plant called the golden paintbrush, in the Pacific Northwest, from the endangered species list due to its recovery.

Historically found from southwestern British Columbia to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the golden paintbrush is a short-lived perennial herb with bright yellow flowers and covered in soft, sticky hairs. The plant, which can grow up to a foot high, was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1997, with only 10 known populations in Washington and British Columbia.

Now, thanks in part to replanting efforts, at least 48 sites of golden paintbrush have been documented — more than 560,000 plants. In Washington it lives at 19 sites: five in the South Puget Sound prairie landscape; six in the San Juan Islands; seven on Whidbey Island, and one near Dungeness Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In Oregon the paintbrush has returned to 26 sites within the Willamette Valley. And in British Columbia, there are three known sites, each located on a separate island.

“The upland prairies and grasslands of the Pacific Northwest support many species that, like the golden paintbrush, are uniquely beautiful,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But without the Endangered Species Act, this fragile flower would have been pushed into extinction years ago by unchecked agricultural and residential development. It’s a good day for the paintbrush, but more needs to be done to save Puget and Willamette prairies and the many endangered species that depend on them.”

By the late 1990s the paintbrush had been eliminated from the Willamette Valley due to habitat loss caused by fire suppression, invasive species, development and recreational picking. Ongoing maintenance of the plant’s prairie and grasslands habitats helped support the paintbrush’s return to its native range in Oregon.

The Service expects the continued management of the paintbrush’s habitat will contribute to the recovery of a number of other species protected by the Endangered Species Act, including Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and three subspecies of Mazama pocket gopher in Washington, the endangered Willamette daisy, and the threatened Kincaid’s lupine and Nelson’s checker-mallow in Oregon.

Additionally, golden paintbrush habitat supports the Fender’s blue butterfly, which the Service proposed to downlist from endangered to threatened on June 22 due to the species’ recovery in the Willamette Valley.

Golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) photo by Robert Pos, USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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