Save Wildflowers from Extinction


Target: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Utah Field Office Manager Larry Crist

Goal: Ensure that two types of wildflowers are not lost forever due to oil shale and tar sands development

Recently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released a draft conservation agreement that delays and undermines federal protection for two imperiled wildflowers in Utah and Colorado. The flowers, Graham’s beardtongue and White River beardtongue, have been waiting to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act since 1975 and 1983, respectively. A decision will be made by the end of 2014 whether to award protection and designate nearly 74,000 acres of critical habitat to protect these species. Urge FWS Utah Field Office Manager Larry Crist to ensure that these wildflowers receive Endangered Species Act protection.

Graham’s and White River beardtongue are found only in oil shale outcroppings in Utah’s Uinta Basin and Colorado’s Piceance Basin. The flowers occupy a horseshoe-shaped band six miles wide stretching 80 miles across southern Uintah County. They typically go unnoticed until spring, when they bloom in vivid colors.

Both plants are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss. The main threats arise from energy development, road construction and off-road vehicle use. The FWS estimates that up to 94 percent of the total known populations of Graham’s and White River beardtongue will be vulnerable to both direct loss and indirect negative impacts such as habitat fragmentation from oil shale and tar sands development.

If approved, the draft agreement proposed by the FWS would remain in place for 15 years, leaving the flowers vulnerable to extinction. Environmentalists argue that the proposal does go far enough to save the species and that they need the immediate protection of the Endangered Species Act. In 2011, the Center for Native Ecosystems (now Rocky Mountain Wild), Utah Native Plant Society, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Colorado Native Plant Society prevailed in a lawsuit against the FWS for failing to protect the Graham’s beardtongue as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Urge the FWS to grant federal protection to these wildflowers, as they will surely go extinct without it.


Dear Field Office Manager Crist,

I am writing to urge you to ensure that Graham’s beardtongue and White River beardtongue receive protection under the Endangered Species Act and that critical habitat is designated in order to save these species from extinction.

Human activity linked to oil shale and tar sands development is destroying the wildflowers’ habitat. The recent draft conservation agreement proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not go far enough to ensure their long-term survival. The FWS has concluded that no significant economic impacts would result from designating critical habitat for these species, despite energy industry assertions that protecting the flowers will hurt local economies and impede energy development.

I urge you to oversee efforts to grant these wildflowers Endangered Species Act protection. Without it, they will be lost forever in the name of profit. I expect you to uphold the Service’s mission of preserving wildlife, instead of giving in to energy industry lobbyists.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Dawn Endico via Wikimedia Commons

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