Utah Native Plant Society

The posts contained herein may not always necessarily represent the official positions and views of the Utah Native Plant Society and are mine alone; nonetheless, this blog is intended to largely supplement the Utah Native Plant Society web site and has similar goals and objectives and when I think my slant about something is perhaps either controversial or straying from what might be generally supported by UNPS, I will try to so indicate since I am also the webmaster for the UNPS web site, a former UNPS board member, conservation co-chair, Utah rare plants guide coordinator, and remain actively involved with day-to-day issues involving the organization. Much of the information contained here will therefore no doubt therefore relate to issues of current concern to the UNPS board and/or its members, inquires made to unps@unps.org, postings made on the UNPS listserv, and the activities our various committees are involved with (conservation, restoration, rare plant issues, invasive species, horticulture and more) and our many and various botanical connections not the least of which are the herbariums based in Utah and elsewhere, and other conservation organizations that have goals that overlap those of UNPS.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Lions and penstemons deserve equivalent consideration

Few understand that the the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) is global in its intended scope; it is about the entire planet, and a new way of thinking about it.

And that's one of the things that makes it one of the most intelligent and forward-thinking laws that this country has ever passed.  The listing of the African Lion in December of 2015 illustrates how it often is a law that recognizes what is important, even if our direct enforcement options are relatively limited. 

Will we continue to lead the way in this regard? And will we protect our own "African lions" as well?

Listing a species under the ESA brings it the attention and potential action that may help lead to significant voluntary and other conservation actions.   Unfortunately when it comes to listing plant species in the United States, the question as to whether or not a species occurs on federal lands is given considerable weight by the USFWS and becomes a factor in their decision as to whether to list.   As the listing of the African Lion demonstrates, this thinking is wrong.

It matters not where a species occurs in determining whether it is ultimately deserving of protection.  It matters, yes, in terms of assessing threats.  But it is not relevant with respect to whether direct enforcement or other regulatory restrictions would apply.  Rather, the indirect benefits to listing are huge.   The FWS also appropriately recognized this with respect to the endangered lions of Africa and India.

But this is also true with species such as Utah's Penstemon flowersii which in part was denied the listing it deserved because of inadequate regulatory mechanisms, because it mostly does not occur on federal lands.  That is precisely one of the reasons why it should have been listed.  

Through the initial efforts of the Utah Native Plant Society (and others) in identifying it as one of our most "extremely high" species of conservation concern in the state of Utah,  and subsequent very significant the efforts of The Nature Conservancy, there is hope for the also magnificent P. flowersii,  and which again illustrates the many benefits of recognizing a species that needs our attention.

More information:

African Lions Finally Gain Endangered Species Act Protection (Scientific American article by John R. Platt published December 21, 2015

December 21, 2015 FWS press release

Lions Are Now Protected Under the Endangered Species Act (also FWS)

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