Congressman Doc Hastings (WA-04) released the following statement regarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) announcement of final listing for the Umtanum Desert buckwheat and the White Bluffs bladderpod as protected species under the Endangered Species Act. Yesterday's announcement from the USFWS also designates approximately 344 acres as critical habitat for the Umtanum Desert buckwheat and 2,861 acres as critical habitat for the White Bluffs bladderpod, including 419 acres of private property in Franklin County.
"This is the latest example of the Fish and Wildlife Service's reacting to self-imposed deadlines from a closed-door settlement with a litigious environmental group. It is unclear why, with a national debt of nearly $17 trillion and other economic and environmental priorities, the Obama Administration feels the need to take this action now. This designation includes over 400 acres of privately-owned land as habitat for two plants, which the Fish and Wildlife Service concedes could cost over $300,000 in lost irrigated agriculture value," said Hastings. "I am also concerned that this action could de-value private property and block public access and multi-use of thousands of acres of Hanford monument and adjoining state-owned boat launch access. As Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee with jurisdiction over the Endangered Species Act, I intend to closely examine this action to determine what improvements might be necessary to the Act to ensure the local community, private property, and the public's right to access public lands are protected."
The Umtanum Desert buckwheat and the White Bluffs bladderpod are found on thousands of acres near the Hanford National Monument in Franklin County and Benton County, Washington. This announcement follows two court settlements between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians that require the USFWS to determine whether 757 different plant or animal species should be listed as endangered before 2018. The two species were petitioned for Endangered Species Act listing by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2004.
In a related matter, Hastings' recently reintroduced legislation--H.R. 1157--the "Rattlesnake Mountain Public Access Act," which directs the Department of the Interior to provide the public with reasonable public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain located within the Hanford Reach National Monument. Hastings' legislation passed the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote of 416-0 in the 112th Congress. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, despite finalizing a management plan of the Hanford Monument in 2008, has failed to provide any public access to the summit, though they recently announced plans to allow, for the first time, two tours next month of wildflowers that are located near the summit.