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Environment: Endangered flower won't be pushing up daisies

Published January 19, 2011 7:30 am

Protected species • Maguire daisy, once listed as endangered, no longer needs feds' protection.
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It turns out the southern Utah desert's rare Maguire daisy wasn't nearly as rare as believed.

First listed as an endangered species in 1985 and downgraded to threatened in 1996, the brushy little white flower that peeks out from under rocks on sandstone mesas and in canyons is now "recovered" and will disappear entirely from the list of federally protected species.

Once thought to have only seven specimens in the San Rafael Swell's Calf Canyon, the daisy now numbers at least 163,000 plants, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It's not just that the plants thrived under protection, said Bekee Hotze, the agency's chief of terrestrial endangered species for Utah. Rather, the scrutiny that came with the daisy's listing led an interagency botany team to search for more, and they found plenty growing south through the swell and in Capitol Reef National Park.

"This species probably got listed too quickly," said Tony Frates, conservation coordinator for the Utah Native Plant Society. It likely wouldn't happen today, he added, because the government is more thorough in its research before listings.

Still, Frates is happy at the result: a team of scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park Service that has focused on rare plants in southern Utah.

Hotze also praised the group's contributions to science and said the effort was "more of a success in people working together to achieve a common goal" than one of a species' rebound.

The Maguire daisy is a small, low-lying member of the sunflower family with a woody bunch of stems and dime-size flowers with white or pinkish-white petals. Its largest populations are on sandstone mesas at 6,000 to 7,000 feet, although smaller populations exist in lower canyons.

The protection of the Endangered Species Act likely helped some populations of the flower to thrive during the past quarter-century, Hotze said, by ensuring that grazing and off-road vehicles were monitored closely. In much of its range, though, the daisy appears to live in places relatively immune to those threats.

It grows out of rock ledges on steep slopes that generally are not grazed, said Ronald Bolander, threatened and endangered program head for the BLM in Utah.

"There weren't any obvious threats to it," Bolander said, and he's unaware of his agency ever having yanked a grazing lease or closed a trail for it. "We just kept an eye on it."

The change in status allows the BLM to shift its focus to more severely threatened plants, Bolander said. Among them are two species of cactus at Factory Butte and a poppy in Washington County.

The Maguire daisy becomes the 21st threatened or endangered American species officially declared recovered.







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