Amy Joi O’Donoghue – Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A federal proposal to set aside nearly 83,000 acres in Utah and Colorado to protect a pair of rare flowering plants will cost nearly $3 million in the first year, mostly to traditional oil and gas producers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft economic analysis on the impacts of designating critical habitat for the Graham’s beardtongue and White River beardtongue, which are only found in the oil shale formation in Utah and Colorado.
A draft conservation proposal, which drew sharp criticism from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, is being pursued as a possibility because the agency said the plants would not receive the benefit of voluntary protections already in place under an Endangered Species Act listing.
“Under the ESA, plants do not receive protection on private lands unless there is a federal nexus,” the agency said. “Therefore, the service is engaging private landowners in voluntary efforts for these two species. This is especially important for the White River beardtongue since almost half of its distribution occurs on private lands.”
A public hearing will be held in Vernal May 28 at the Uintah County Library on the proposed protections for Uintah and Duchesne counties in Utah, and Rio Blanco County in Colorado. (…)