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Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter is keeping things interesting regarding the Idaho wilderness.

Otter filed notice of an intent to sue Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Director Sam Hamilton of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding their decision to list slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The decision to list the plant was made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on October 9 and will become effective in 60 days.

The Gem State's full Congressional delegation, including Democrat Walt Minnick, voiced support for the proposed lawsuit:

"I support Governor Otter in his decision," said U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, Ranking Member on the Senate subcommittee that oversees the ESA.  

"Throughout my political career, I have tried to make the Endangered Species Act less contentious and have encouraged landowners and political leaders to work in the arena of cooperative conservation.  This listing significantly weakens many of those efforts and undermines the good work of our state, private landowners and others who have worked so hard to protect slickspot peppergrass"

"If we truly want to preserve species we must work collaboratively to have any chance of success.  A top down mandate, which is what this listing is, pushes parties apart and is detrimental to species recovery," said U.S. Senator Jim Risch.  

"Governor Otter is right in filing this notice and the federal government needs to work with the state, not against them, if they want to recover this or any other species."

"I want to commend the Governor for his extensive efforts to work collaboratively with ranchers and other public land users in Idaho to find solutions to problems facing species like slickspot peppergrass in Idaho," said Second District Congressman Mike Simpson.  

"These efforts have been effective, and I'm disappointed in the decision to list the species as threatened in spite of the good work going on in Idaho.  As we move forward on this issue, I am hopeful that the agencies will work with us to find a solution that provides a win-win."

According to First District Congressman Minnick:

"Idahoans have proven time and again that collaborative, bottom-up approaches to land management and species conservation provide the best means for protecting that which makes Idaho so unique. The USFWS decision deals a serious blow to the collaborative process and will hamper the success of future endeavors."

Slickspot peppergrass is found primarily in southwest Idaho in a unique soil condition called a "slickspot" that is sparsely vegetated.  The plant is a member of the mustard family.  The major threats to the plant, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are wildfires and invasive species such as cheatgrass and the effects of climate change on the sage-steppe ecosystem.  Thus, the ESA listing will do nothing to help recover the species.

According to a press release from Risch:

In early 2004, the USFWS did not list slickspot peppergrass as threatened due to the extent of its range and abundance.  The state of Idaho also developed a Candidate Conservation Agreement (CCA) with the BLM, Idaho Army National Guard, U.S. Air Force and private property owners to address the needs of the plant to prevent its listing.  The CCA established a method for the conservation of slickspot peppergrass through a voluntary agreement on state and private land.  Listing slickspot peppergrass directly undermines the state’s policy of proactively and collaboratively conserving species and their habitat while maintaining predictable levels of land use.

Butch has issued an ultimatum:

The governor’s intent to sue notice provides the secretary sixty days to cure the legally-flawed basis upon which the listing was premised.  Failure to rescind the final listing determination may result in legal action by the governor in federal court.

I certainly hope Idaho leaders know what they're doing.

Originally posted to The Book Bear on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 04:15 PM PST.

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