The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list as threatened under the Endangered Species Act two plants on and near Washington state's Hanford National Monument.

A listing may restrict irrigated farming, recreational hiking, vehicle use and ultimately block the public from thousands of acres of Hanford monument and adjoining state and private lands, said Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and whose Washington's 4th congressional district includes the area.

"Today's action is the latest example of how the Endangered Species Act is being abused and warped by a barrage of costly lawsuits where lawyers seek to force hundreds of new ESA species listings through closed-door settlements with the federal government," Hastings said in a news release.

For eight years, "an extreme environmental group" sued for federal listing of two Hanford Reach plants -- the Umtanum Desert buckwheat and White Bluffs bladderpod, Hastings said.

The Obama administration has decided to press forward with a listing, Hastings said, noting he will closely examine the decision as chairman before any final decisions are made. He said he wants to ensure local community, private property and public access rights are protected.

The USFWS proposal includes about 344 acres as critical habitat for the buckwheat and 2,861 acres as critical habitat for the bladderpod. They include federal, state and private land.

Hastings sponsored HR2719, the Rattlesnake Mountain Public Access Act, which directs the Department of Interior to provide reasonable public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain in the Hanford Reach National Monument. The bill passed the House 416-0 on Dec. 15 and went to the Senate where it was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The USFWS finalized a management plant for the monument in 2008 and has not provided public access.

-- Dan Wheat

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