By MATTHEW WEAVER
Officials in Franklin County, Wash., say the White Bluffs Bladderpod, currently up for consideration for protection under the Endangered Species Act, is the same as any other bladderpod.
County stakeholders tested the plant's DNA at the University of Idaho Laboratory for Evolutionary, Ecological and Conservation Genetics. The lab compared 45,000 DNA base pairs in 15 plant samples, including samples from seven counties in Washington, Nez Perce County, Idaho, and from the UI herbarium and from 1938 in Oregon.
All samples came back as "100 percent the same DNA structure," said Franklin County Natural Resources Advisory Committee chairman Kent McMullen.
"This is not a subspecies, it is not an isolated population. It is part of a general population spread over a four-state area," he said.
If the bladderpod is listed, the committee will likely recommend that Franklin County commissioners proceed with litigation to stop the action, McMullen said.
Brad Thompson, listing and recovery division manager for the U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service office in Lacey, Wash., said he had not seen the results of the study.
If the information is provided in a comment, "We'd be very much looking forward to seeing that analysis and evaluating the information within it to help inform us whether or not a listing is indeed warranted," Thompson said.
McMullen said the study was included in the public comment period, which ended July 22.
"The cheapest science available, and the most conclusive science available using DNA has never been conducted in the last 14 years," he said. "They have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in this process of falsifying science, whereas a simple test would have given them definitive answers rather than this ruse that has been going on."
The committee devoted roughly $17,000 in funding to the testing, McMullen said.
McMullen believes the plant is not the interest, but rather sloughing of the White Bluffs, with irrigation being blamed instead of earthquake fault lines in the area.
"Irrigation water may play a part, but we don't think it's the primary causative factor," he said.
McMullen said the agency could impose buffer zones to shut down agricultural activities on thousands of acres.
Thompson said there is currently not any genetics information specific to the White Bluffs bladderpod considered so far in the rule-making process. In other plant and animal work, genetics information is not always available at the time of making a decision to list a species, he said.
"We have to work with the best available information and science," he said. "Sometimes that does and sometimes it does not include genetics."
Thompson said the next step is organizing comments into a logical set of categories. The service will address each comment in writing a final rule, due to be published Nov. 22.
If the plant is listed and critical habitat designated, the final rule would be implemented 30 days later, Thompson said.