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Umtanum Desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod gain "threatened" status
Washington, DC – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the listing of the White Bluffs bladderpod and Umtanum Desert buckwheat as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The Service is also designating critical habitat for both species. These two rare plants were included in WildEarth Guardians’ settlement agreement with the Service expediting listing for 252 candidate species, some of which have been waiting decades for protection. Both plants have been on the candidate list for over 13 years.
These two plants are found only on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River in Washington state, the last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River in the United States. Most of the Hanford Reach is within Hanford Reach National Monument, the former site of the “B” nuclear reactor which created the plutonium used to bomb Nagasaki in World War II.
“This listing will ensure preservation of something more than a legacy of war at Hanford,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “What was once Hanford Nuclear Reservation is now a unique refuge for numerous rare plants.”
White Bluffs bladderpods are sturdy, densely-leaved perennials with showy yellow flowers in May, June, and July. They are cliff-dwellers, growing on near-vertical exposures of weathered paleosol, an ancient, buried soil with a composition that may reflect the significantly different climate present during its formation. White Bluffs bladderpods are threatened by wildfire, irrigation-induced landslides, recreational activities including off-road vehicle use, and invasive species.
Umtanum Desert buckwheat are slow-growing perennials that form low mats of pale green leaves studded with yellow flowers. Individual plants may live over 100 years. They face threats from wildfire, seed predation, and encroachment by invasive species.
Listing under the Endangered Species Act has proven an effective safety net for imperiled species: more than 99 percent of plants and animals listed under the Act persist today. The law is especially important as a bulwark against the current extinction crisis; plants and animals are disappearing at a rate much higher than the natural rate of extinction due to human activities. Scientists estimate that 227 species would have gone extinct if not for ESA listing.