For Immediate Release, May 3, 2023
Kristine Akland, (406) 544-9863, email@example.com
Threatened Idaho Plant Finally Receives Critical Habitat
More Than 78,000 Acres Set Aside for Slickspot Peppergrass
BOISE, Idaho— Following litigation by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat today for the slickspot peppergrass, an Idaho plant that’s protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The agency’s final rule sets aside 78,009 acres in Ada, Elmore, Gem, Payette and Owyhee counties.
“The slickspot peppergrass has needed these habitat protections for years, and I’m glad it’s finally getting them,” said Kristine Akland, Northern Rockies program director at the Center. “This intricate plant is fighting to survive, and we have to use all the tools we can to keep it from going extinct.”
Slickspot peppergrass is a flowering sagebrush-steppe plant threatened by agriculture, mining, urban sprawl, livestock grazing and invasive species. It lives largely on the Snake River Plain, Owyhee Plateau and adjacent foothills in southwestern Idaho.
Only roughly 90 occurrences remain. Most are in degraded and low-quality habitat, with few plants. The slickspot peppergrass suffers the highest known elimination rate of any Idaho plant species.
Today’s critical habitat designation follows years of litigation. The Fish and Wildlife Service first proposed protection of the peppergrass as a threatened species in 2002, but then withdrew the proposal and had to be sued by Western Watersheds Project, delaying protection until 2009.
In 2011 the agency first proposed critical habitat. The state of Idaho sued and got protection remanded in 2012, and the peppergrass had to again be protected as threatened in 2016. The Service failed to redesignate critical habitat.
In 2019 the Center obtained a legal victory requiring critical habitat to be proposed in 2020. After the Service failed to finalize protection, the Center sued again earlier this year, resulting in today’s final designation.
“It shouldn’t take the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service more than 20 years to protect such a clearly imperiled species like the slickspot peppergrass,” said Akland. “While we’re happy to see more protections for the species, the process here highlights the need for agency reform so that the Service can actually accomplish its duty to protect species before they’re lost forever.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, the Service is charged with designating critical habitat within two years of a species receiving federal protection.
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.