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Valentine's Day is Not Just About Roses

Conservation Group Advocates for Bouquet of Endangered Wildflowers

Denver, CO-Feb. 8. WildEarth Guardians’ BioBlitz, an eight-week long initiative to push the U.S. government to more aggressively respond to the biodiversity crisis, continues this week with “Wildflower Week,” featuring actions to protect endangered plants in the American West.

“For Valentine’s Day, we’re urging the federal government to show some love for endangered wildflowers by providing them with legal shields,” stated Dr. Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “Without federal protection, these beautiful plants may vanish forever,” continued Rosmarino.

The BioBlitz began on December 28, the 36-year anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, in tribute to the law’s role in protecting biodiversity and in celebration of 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity. For 36 consecutive working days, Guardians is filing lawsuits or scientific petitions to obtain Endangered Species Act protection for imperiled species. Wildflower Week is the 7th week of the BioBlitz.

Conservation actions taken by WildEarth Guardians during “Wildflower Week” are:

February 8: a lawsuit to obtain federal protection under the Endangered Species Act for the Yellowstone Sand Verbena in Wyoming. There is only one population of this plant, on a narrow band of Yellowstone Lake’s shoreline.

February 9: a lawsuit to obtain federal protection for Pale Blue-eyed Grass, an iris that occurs on just 1,000 acres in a limited area in Washington and Oregon, where it faces a panoply of threats.

February 10: a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s refusal to protect the Many-flowered Unicorn Plant. This wildflower, confined to terraces along the Rio Grande of west Texas and northern Mexico, has not been seen since 1967.

February 11: a lawsuit to obtain federal safeguards for the Wright’s marsh thistle, which is found in only limited areas in New Mexico. The leading threat to this plant is loss of water in the wetland habitats it requires.

February 12: a petition requesting federal protection for the Aztec Gilia, a plant limited to northwestern New Mexico (San Juan County), near the towns of Aztec and Bloomfield.

The focus this week is the Aztec Gilia, also known as “Beautiful Gilia.” With large clusters of light purple, trumpet-shaped blooms, it lives up to its name. Aztec Gilia is a perennial plant that grows 3-12 inches tall and flowers in April or May. Its habitat is clay soils in desert scrub at elevations of 5,000-6,400 feet. Aztec Gilia has the misfortune of overlying part of the San Juan Basin, one of the nation’s most intensely developed oil fields. A growing threat is off-road vehicle use, which takes a severe toll on young plants. Attempts at transplanting Aztec Gilia out of harm’s way have been unsuccessful.

Interior Secretary Salazar has utterly failed to use the Endangered Species Act to protect species. New Endangered Species Act listings have reached an all-time low. Thus far, Salazar has protected only 2 new U.S. species under the law, despite nearly 350 species awaiting formal protection. Through its BioBlitz, Guardians is increasing pressure on Secretary Salazar and other federal officials to list needy species, before they go extinct.

Each week of the BioBlitz illustrates a theme. Previous week themes were: Climate, E.O. Wilson, Prairie, On the Prowl, Sagebrush Sea, and Borderlands. Next week is the final week of the BioBlitz.

“The Endangered Species Act has a nearly perfect record in preventing extinction: over 99 percent of the species protected under it are still with us today. The International Year of Biodiversity must remind the U.S. government that it has the power to safeguard biodiversity - now it just needs the will,” stated Rosmarino.

WildEarth Guardians has been at the forefront of endangered species enforcement in the U.S. The group is a formal partner in the United Nation’s Year of Biodiversity (see here), in which “The world is invited to take action in 2010 to safeguard the variety of life on earth: biodiversity.”

View the Yellowstone Sand Verbena fact sheet (PDF)

View the Pale Blue-eyed Grass fact sheet (PDF)

View the Many-flowered Unicorn Plant fact sheet (PDF)

View the Wright's Marsh Thistle fact sheet (PDF)

View the Aztec Gilia fact sheet (PDF)


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