MEDIA ALERT: Threatened Slickspot Needs Protection from Livestock
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 16, 2016
Ken Cole, Western Watersheds Project (208) 429-1679
BOISE, Idaho— Western Watersheds Project applauds yesterday’s announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife that the slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium pappilliferum) will remain protected as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. Political meddling from the livestock industry and its friends in the state of Idaho kept this plant from being protected for over a decade.
Threatened Slickspot Needs Protection from Livestock
Slickspot peppergrass is a fascinating desert plant with tiny white flowers. It is endemic to a narrow band across southwestern Idaho where it occurs only in “slickspots” or wet areas in the desert. Only 100 occurrences of the plant are known. A primary land use on its public lands habitat is livestock grazing. Cattle naturally congregate in the wet spots, trampling the plants and its habitat. This trampling, combined with weed invasions and increased fires—both of which are worsened by cattle grazing—have left the plant in dire straits. As one scientist put it, the plant is “at a tipping point in terms of its prospect for survival.”
“The slickspot peppergrass is a rare and sensitive species that merits the protections that only the ESA can provide,” said Ken Cole, Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project. “We look forward to seeing meaningful protections, including limits on livestock grazing, that truly protect the limited landscapes where this plant occurs.”
Showing that the livestock industry in Idaho still maintains an outsized hoofprint, the new rule fails to consider livestock grazing as a major threat to the species. The Service lists invasive species and wildfires as dominant causes for concern, failing to recognize that livestock grazing and its pervasive negative influence on arid ecosystems increases invasive species infestations and, in turn, fuels the unnatural fire cycles that harm Idaho’s high desert landscape. The Service also identified Owyhee harvester ants' impact on the seedbank of the plant as an emerging threat in light of the habitat conversion from sagebrush to grasses which increases the ants distribution.
“The land management agencies are going to have to come up with a better plan for keeping livestock off of grazing allotments in slickspot habitat or the plant is doomed,” said Cole. “It’s ironic that we can talk about the impact of ants to the species but not the effects of the sacred cow.”
Western Watersheds Project, Inc
PO Box 1770
Hailey, Idaho 83333
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