Big Victory for Slickspot Peppergrass!

Rare plant will receive protection across its entire range.


Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) © Ken Cole
Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) © Ken Cole

October 1, 2009


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


Boise, Idaho – Conservation groups applauded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Secretary Salazar for living up to their promise to let science – and not politics – determine whether Slickspot peppergrass warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, when the Service announced its intention to protect Slickspot peppergrass as a threatened species.

Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) © Ken Cole
Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) © Ken Cole

“The science was never in question,” said Todd Tucci, Senior Attorney for Advocates for the West. “The bottleneck to protecting Slickspot peppergrass for the last 15 years has been political interference in the ESA listing decision. This interference was lead by state and federal politicians – and their allies in the ranching industry – who refuse to modify any land use practices to account for the needs of this species,” Tucci said.

“Finally, this was a long time coming” said Jon Marvel, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, who has been advocating to increase protections for Slickspot peppergrass for over a decade. “Western Watersheds now looks forward to the hard work of reforming land management activities to protect a species that remains on the precipice of extinction.”

“With this decision, the Service can begin to restore the scientific credibility that it has lost over the past eight years,” said Katie Fite, Biodiversity Director of Western Watersheds Project. “We congratulate the agency and independent scientists who persevered to ensure that Slickspot peppergrass obtain the protection it so desperately needs,” Fite continued.

Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) nearly trampled by a cow © Ken Cole
Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) nearly trampled by a cow © Ken Cole

Slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) is a native desert flower, found only in small parts of southern Idaho within the sage-steppe ecosystem. As its name suggests, this flower grows only where puddles or small pools form after rains or snow, and then dry up in the hot arid climate. Populations of this rare desert flower have been reduced to a fraction of its former range, and federal and state scientists have documented by federal and other scientists, and the primary threats to this flower are livestock trampling and grazing, off-road vehicles, agriculture developments, and other human actions.

The health of Slickspot peppergrass is a bellwether for the survival of the entire sage-steppe ecosystem

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has known since 1990 that this species warrants protection under the ESA. In 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2006, experts within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposed to protect this species under the ESA. And each and every time, the political appointees within Administration have discarded the scientific evidence, and rejected the recommendations of the botanists and other scientists.

Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) covered in cow flop © Brian Ertz
Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) covered in cow flop © Brian Ertz

This listing is a result of a series of lawsuit brought by Advocates for the West on behalf of Western Watersheds Project to protect Slickspot peppergrass.


  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    This makes me very happy. I was introduced to the species on a trip I took with kt and Brian Ertz this spring where it became abundantly clear what was causing the decline of this species. Everywhere we went, with the exception of a grazing exclosure, we saw where cattle had concentrated in the slickspots that these plants require because they hold water during the wet season. Hoof prints and cow flop destroyed the plants and the slickspots.

  2. kt Avatar


    I believe the slickspot peppergrass sage is used in law school classes in illustrating assaults on the ESA and political interference.

    I think some of the ranchers (with the aid of plaint BLM Range cons) have been pursuing a policy of planned eradication of this plant from slickspots with intensive cattle trampling events during very wet periods . It is ridiculous for USFWS to commend them and BLM in their Press Releases, as they have done today. The only entity that has acted responsibly towards slickspot peppergrass is the Idaho National Guard – largely in the pre-Butch Otter days.

    And the Air Force (also commended by FWS) – they are giving slickspot peppergrass a double whammy – New facilities AND Senator Bert Brackett’s cows trampling and manuring and promoting weeds on the same lands that taxpayers paid 3/4 of a million supposedly for removing his cows.

    The political chokehold of ranchers,operating through Larry Craig and Mike Crapo on this process over the past 9 years is a disgrace.

    And quite a cool little nuthatch – you’ll have to get a photo of a slickspot pollinator at some point … Some of those little wild bees might be kind of cute too.

  3. kt Avatar

    I meant “saga” and “pliant” … Sorry.

  4. Hilljack Avatar

    Maybe this will finally reduce some of the grazing pressure on public lands. Most allotments should have half the cattle they currently graze. I would love to see no grazing but it is public land and should be used utilized to some extent. First they need to increase the fees for grazing, currently to go through the NEPA process it takes 50 or more years to recover the expendatures need for specialists.

  5. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    The livestock spokesman speaks. Must of received another truckload of steaks and roasts.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ken Cole