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Veronica Warnock; Conservation Director; 541-963-3950 x 3;

Darilyn Parry Brown; Executive Director; 541-963-3950 x 1;


Forest Service ignores recommendations to recover Spalding’s catchfly

LA GRANDE--On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, Greater Hells Canyon Council (GHCC) filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service over its failure to meet its duties to protect and recover threatened Spalding’s catchfly in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.

The management plan for Hells Canyon requires the Forest Service to participate in the recovery of threatened species. The agency has reauthorized grazing in pastures where a threatened plant is found, without taking adequate measures to protect and recover the plant.

Spalding’s catchfly grows only in the inland Pacific Northwest. Today it survives only in isolated patches, including in Wallowa County, the only place in Oregon where it is known to occur. It is a unique but vanishing part of the Nez Perce country’s natural inheritance.

The Forest Service conducted the Lower Imnaha Rangeland Analysis to evaluate the effects of reauthorizing grazing in four allotments in Hells Canyon. They found a large population (948 plants) of Spalding’s catchfly in these allotments. Populations of over 500 plants are considered the most recoverable, and can play an important role in getting Spalding’s catchfly removed from the threatened species list.

“The goal here is to have the plant delisted,” said Darilyn Brown, Executive Director of GHCC.

The Lower Imnaha Rangeland Analysis also found that grazing in these allotments clearly has a damaging effect on Spalding’s catchfly and its habitat. The Forest Service rejected recommendations to conduct regular botanical surveys on this newly-discovered population, making it difficult to make informed grazing management decisions.

After completing its analysis, the Forest Service, as required under the Endangered Species Act, consulted with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service over how best to protect and recover Spalding’s catchfly in these allotments. The Forest Service ignored every single conservation recommendation made by Fish & Wildlife and even their own specialists.

GHCC offered to drop its objection to the project if the Forest Service followed Fish & Wildlife’s recommendations and its own specialists’ advice. “If the Forest Service doesn’t fulfil its duties to recover threatened and endangered species now, how can we trust it to meet its duties in the future?” asked Veronica Warnock, Conservation Director of GHCC. “There are many more grazing allotments coming up for reauthorization. It’s important that the Forest Service get it right this time.”

“The area in dispute is really just a very small fraction of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest,” said Brown. “However, it could have a big impact on the recovery of Spalding’s catchfly.”

Greater Hells Canyon Council is not asking for any modifications to current grazing in the area while the case is pending, so grazing would be allowed to continue as planned until there is a ruling from the court.

“This isn’t about a rancher doing something wrong,” said Warnock. “This is about the Forest Service ignoring management recommendations on how to protect and recover a threatened species, something it is required to do in Hells Canyon.”


Greater Hells Canyon Council was founded in 1967. They seek to connect, protect, and restore the Greater Hells Canyon Region.

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