WWP goes to federal court demanding the listing of Slickspot Peppergrass

Post 993

“KT” has written a lot on this blog about about cows, slickspot peppergrass, and Idaho politicians lapping up the political cream. It is hardly surprising that former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne’s US Fish and Wildlife Service is not willing to list this Idaho native plant, so the Idaho-founded WWP is going to sue the Service.

Who would have thought that Idaho issues like species reintroductions, peppergrass, and dam-blocked salmon would have been so moved onto the national political arena by the appointment of the outdoors indifferent Kempthorne?


Todd Tucci, Advocates for the West (208-342-7024)
Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project (208-788-2290)
Katie Fite, Western Watersheds Project (208-429-1679)
E-mail: wwp@westernwatersheds.org


On Friday April 6, 2007 Western Watersheds filed litigation in federal district court against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its continued refusal to protect Slickspot peppergrass – a rare desert flower found only in southern Idaho – under the Endangered Species Act.

“At the end of the day, we want to see science – and not politics – control the Service’s listing decisions,” said Todd C. Tucci, attorney for Advocates for the West who represents Western Watersheds. “Unfortunately, Secretary Kempthorne has proven as incapable of faithfully applying the ESA as his predecessor.”

This is now the fourth time that political appointees have reversed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service efforts to protect Slickspot peppergrass. In August 2005, reversing an earlier decision refusing to protect Slickspot peppergrass, the District Court of Idaho found that Slickspot peppergrass was teetering on the “precipice of extinction,” and that the Secretary violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to list this rare desert flower.

“We should not be surprised that Secretary Kempthorne is quietly weakening the Endangered Species Act,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “One of his primary goals since the mid-1990s has been to undermine the Act, and make it more difficult to protect our natural heritage.”

Slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) is a native desert flower, found only in small parts of southern Idaho. As its name suggests, this flower grows only where puddles or small pools form after rains or snow, and then dry up in the arid climate. Populations of this rare desert flower have been reduced to approximately 100 acres. The primary threats to this flower are livestock trampling and grazing, off-road vehicles, and agriculture developments. (for photos and more information please see: http://www.westernwatersheds.org/facts_photos/LEPA/LEPA.html

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has known since 1990 that this species warrants protection under the ESA. In 2000, 2002, 2003 and in 2006, experts within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposed to protect this species under the Endangered Species Act. And each time, the political appointees within the Bush Administration discarded the scientific evidence, and rejected the recommendations.

“The Secretary and the Service cannot be trusted in making the right decision here,” said Katie Fite, Biodiversity Director with WWP. “We need to ask the Court to order Secretary Kempthorne to protect Slickspot peppergrass, anything less will ensure extinction.”







  1. Layton Avatar

    I’m naive as anything on this —– but isn’t there maybe another kind of pepper grass that is considered a noxious weed in Idaho??

    Seems to me that some folks from the Payette Natl. Forest had to go into the Frank to look for some a couple of years ago.


  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Probably purple pepper. It’s unrelated. I am currently hoeing it out of my property.

  3. be Avatar

    ‘As reported by The Associated Press, Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement made earlier this year: “I stand ready to defend the Fish and Wildlife’s sound conclusion, as well as our state’s ability and determination to protect our resources on our own terms.”‘

    Here’s a good article

    this is another sad story of industry’s ability to keep a species boxed up – remember to draw the thread through the new listing considerations for habitat the agency is trying to pass. lost habitat in the past will no longer be considered viable for restoration should it continue to decline. guess that leaves slickspot peppergrass and its 100 acreas left pretty easy to manage. perhaps the agency should put up a greenhouse and get those numbers so dense for that plot that all the good-ol’-boys will have green records…


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan