Hastings questions White Bluffs bladderpod's change to threatened status

By the Tri-City HeraldMarch 7, 2014 

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is seeking answers about the recent decision to list the White Bluffs bladderpod as threatened.

Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, questioned Ken Berg, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Washington state manager, in a letter sent Friday.

He told Berg it appeared the 2013 deadline on listing the bladderpod caused the issue to be rushed at the expense of quality data and science.

Hastings wanted more information on Fish and Wildlife's basis for classifying White Bluffs bladderpod, which the service says grows only along the Columbia River in Franklin County, as a subspecies of a more common plant.

He also had concerns about Fish and Wildlife's peer review of DNA research commissioned by area farmers. The research showed that the White Bluffs bladderpod was the same species as other bladderpod plants in the Northwest, but a Fish and Wildlife peer review group said University of Idaho researcher Cort Anderson only used three bladderpod samples, not enough to change the service's opinion.

Hastings also questioned Fish and Wildlife's process for notifying farmers who live near the area designated as critical habitat for the bladderpod during a public review period in 2012.

After public outcry, the service reopened the comment period last year. Its final review kept the threatened species listing in place, but limited its critical habitat to only federally owned land in the Hanford Reach National Monument. It had originally also proposed 315 acres of private land and 66 state-owned acres for critical habitat.

Hastings requests in his letter a copy of a 2006 unpublished report that he said Fish and Wildlife relied on for its bladderpod listing.

He also seeks information on two peer review groups. One group investigated the 2012 proposed listing of the bladderpod, the other questioned last year's DNA research with a competing opinion. Hastings wants information on how the reviewers were selected and any communications between the reviewers and Fish and Wildlife officials.

Hastings also asked for an explanation of why Fish and Wildlife placed its final rule for the bladderpod in the Spokesman-Review instead of a Franklin County newspaper.

Also Friday, the Washington state Senate passed a resolution honoring Hastings on his years in leadership.

Hastings is not seeking re-election after 10 terms in Washington, D.C. He also served in the state House of Representatives from 1979-87.

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