The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently affirmed (pdf) its decision to list the White Bluffs bladderpod (Physaria douglasii subsp. tuplashensis) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also revised its designation of critical habitat for the plant species to exclude certain private and state lands in Franklin County, Washington.
The Service previously published a final rule to list the species (pdf) and designate critical habitat (pdf) on April 23, 2013. However, the Service delayed the effective date of these rules in order to accept and consider additional public comments. In its recent decision, the Service affirmed its listing determination, finding the White Bluffs bladderpod is threatened by wildfire, landslides, recreational activities and off-road vehicle use, nonnative plants, small population size, and limited geographic range.
Critics had challenged the listing by alleging that new information indicated the species is not a distinct subspecies of Physaria douglasii. The Service, however, determined that the new information is inconclusive and affirmed its decision.
The Service also reevaluated its original designation of critical habitat in response to new public comments and information, including aerial photographs and site visits. The Service determined that certain areas designated as critical habitat in the prior rule do not meet the statutory definition, and reduced the critical habitat acreage from 2,828 to 2,033 acres.