September 14, 2009 | 7
Goose Creek milkvetch (Astragalus anserinus), a rare plant that only exists in a 25-square-kilometer area straddling the borders of Idaho, Nevada and Utah, "warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act" (ESA) but it won’t get it, because other species have "higher priorities," according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).
The FWS announced its decision on the plant Thursday. The species remains on the FWS’s "candidate list," although there is no prediction of when, or if, it will actually receive ESA protection.
It took more than five years for the FWS to come up with this decision. More than 25 conservation organizations first petitioned them in 2004 to protect this species of milkvetch. The service then spent several years collecting data on the plant to see if it deserved protection under the act.
The Goose Creek milkvetch has fared poorly since the original petition. More than half of the population was lost in 2007 during a summer wildfire that burned 25 percent of the species’s habitat in Nevada and Utah.
Image: Goose Creek milkvetch, via Nevada National Heritage Program