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Budget cuts have prompted the state to lop another science position from the payroll — this one for the lone botanist who kept a statewide list of rare and declining plant species.

Elimination of the position comes the month after the state antiquities program — also citing a budget crunch — eliminated three archaeology positions.

Amy Canning, a spokeswoman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said her agency offered M.A. "Ben" Franklin another position in the agency when federal funding for his position dried up. But he opted to retire instead, she said.

"It's bleak," Canning said of her agency's funding situation, "and we've had to prepare."

In the just-ended state budget year, the division has lost $3.2 million in grants contracts and other outside sources (the state's sales-tax-stoked General Fund did not decrease), she said. The funding reductions have prompted a reduction of 25 full-time equivalent positions, mostly by attrition, retirements and leaving seasonal and part-time positions unfilled.

Canning said that the wildlife resources office has been working on developing a partnership with Utah State University and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to have the functions of the botanist job carried out through a cooperative agreement.

As part of the four-person Utah Natural Heritage Program team that began in 1988, Franklin helped develop and maintain a database of rare and declining plant species. The list is used by researchers and developers who need information about protected species to obtain permits.

In a 2005 report on his work, Franklin noted that the database was built from a wide variety of resources, including universities, herbariums and in-house surveys.

"The state of Utah is unique in the richness of its endemic and rare flora," the synopsis said, "Only four states, i.e., California, Florida, Texas and Oregon, equal or exceed Utah in their numbers of rare plant species."

Franklin sent a goodbye note to co-workers on Thursday, his last day. "It has been great working with many of you over the years," he wrote.

"ps: if I show up on Monday, please remind me …"

Rare and declining plants of Utah

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