By Brian Maffly
May 6, 2014
“The long-awaited decision on whether to protect two rare desert flowers could hinge on a proposed deal federal authorities have reached with state and Uintah County officials.
Occurring only in the Uinta Basin, the Graham’s and White River beardtongue species of penstemon grow on oil shale outcroppings, so some fear a listing under the Endangered Species Act could stymie Utah’s nascent oil shale industry.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Monday released a draft conservation agreement, which identifies federal and state lands where surface-disturbing activities would be severely limited. The idea is to preserve core areas and demonstrate that beardtongue does not warrant listing, according to John Harja of the state Public Lands Policy Coordination Office.
The areas “will be refuges for the plants,” he said. “We did this for the purpose of addressing the threats.””