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Farmers Question Science Behind Endangered Listing For Bladderpod

Anna King
Northwest News Network

A group of farmers in southeast Washington is trying to stop the federal government from giving endangered species protection to a rare plant. It’s called the White Bluffs bladderpod. And it grows on a narrow ribbon of federal land and farms.

A farmer group is using genetic tests to claim that the plant is not as rare as it seems.

The farmers hired an agronomist to sample three plants found along the bluffs of southeast Washington. They also hired a scientist from the University of Idaho to genetically compare those samples to a handful of plant material gathered throughout the Columbia Basin.

The farm group says the results show this bladderpod is the same one that grows in many other areas of the West, not the narrow slice federal scientists have claimed.

Stuart Turner, the agronomist who led the recent study, says, “Unfortunately, Fish and Wildlife is wrong. The indications are based on this technology that, based on this extensive testing and cross analysis against other samples from a wide area that is that we have one common species.”

Top plant experts say it’s difficult to tell by genetic testing if the disputed bladderpod is its own species or just looks different because of where it grows.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife manager, Brad Thompson, says the final decision on the White Bluffs Bladderpod will come near the end of November.

On the Web:

White Bluffs bladderpod - US Fish and Wildlife Service

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.