Letter: Herald editorial board wrong about bladderpod

August 21, 2013 

Your two editorials on the potential listing of White Bluffs bladderpod contain several misconceptions. First, a single DNA sequencing is not the method botanists use to classify plants, which is why this was not done by U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service. How genetically distinct the White Bluffs plants are will be decided by researchers who work with this genus, and the findings will be published in scientific journals.

Secondly, the protection under the ESA is not the same for plants and animals -- including owls. Generally speaking, the government does not protect plants on private land. According to the USFWS website, "Only activities that involve a federal permit, license or funding and are likely to destroy or adversely modify the area of critical habitat, will be affected. A critical habitat designation generally has no effect on situations that do not involve a federal agency, for example a private landowner undertaking a project that involves no federal funding or permit."

Bladderpod grows in dry, barren, almost vertical exposures of calcium carbonate on the edge of the Columbia River -- areas that are inhospitable to agriculture. The plant is not invasive and will not grow in irrigated farmland. A critical habitat listing is unlikely to affect farmers.

JANE ABEL, Richland

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