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Colorado: USFWS to consider Endangered Species Act protection for rare Rocky Mountain monkeyflower

Moisture-dependent plant only known to grow in 7 spots

Monkeyflowers (not the species under consideration for listing) growing at a spring near Clinton Gulch Reservoir, in Summit County, Colorado.

Monkeyflower blossom.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The small and shy Rocky Mountain monkeyflower will be considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency said this week it will take a hard look at the status of the wildflower, which only grows in seven known locations at subalpine elevations in the mountains west of Denver. The flower is threatened by direct human impacts as well as a changing climate that could dry up the seeps and springs that provide habitat on state and federal lands.

According to a 2003 U.S. Forest Service assessment, the species is not at risk from management actions on public lands, but its long-term persistence could depend on adequate management to minimize potential threats.

The plants are only about four inches high. They seldom produce their characteristic little monkey-faced flowers, and they hide among ferns and mosses on moist soils along seeps and streams.

Surveying for new populations, studying the ability of this species to persist in stochastic conditions, and exploring the potential for restoration are important conservation tools to protect the species, according to the Forest Service assessment.

The review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comes in response to a citizen petition that asks the agency to consider threatened or endangered status for the plant.

In a release, the USFS said the petition provided substantial information that the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower may be threatened by habitat destruction or fragmentation due to trampling by hikers, wildfire and a warmer, drier climate.

“The finding on the petition does not mean we have decided it is appropriate to list the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower. Rather, this finding is the first step in a process to trigger a more thorough review of all the biological information available,” the agency said.

Based on the results of the review, the agency could decide that listing is not warranted; that it’s warranted but precluded from listing because of the need to focus on other species, or a listing as threatened or endangered.

More information on the Rocky Mountain monkeyflower is available at this USFWS website.

As part of the process, the agency is soliciting input from the public and other organizations and agencies. Comments can sent via email to: http://www.regulations.gov. After accessing the regulations.gov website, in the box that reads “Enter Keyword or ID,” enter the docket number for this finding stated above.  Check the box that reads “Open for Comment/Submission,” and click the Search button.  Comments must be received by Oct. 29, 2012.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/. Connect with our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/USFWSMountainPrairie, follow our tweets at http://twitter.com/USFWSMtnPrairie, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmtnprairie/

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