In Utah's Uinta Basin, rich deposits of oil shale form a challenging habitat for an extremely rare plant: Graham's Penstemon. The future of these beautiful and hardy flowers is becoming more uncertain, as the harsh environment in which they thrive gains economic value with soaring energy costs.
Oil and gas development is already beginning to impact areas where the Penstemon is found. In an effort to plan for and mitigate further degradation, a group of Conservancy staff, partners and volunteers took critical action by searching for and recording the location of a rare bloom found nowhere else on Earth.
"With the increased interest in oil shale, it is important to map the plant's habitat in advance," said Joan Degiorgio, Northern Mountains Regional Director for the Utah Chapter. "This will help energy development companies avoid these areas and guarantee the future of the Penstemon."
What Did They Find?
Over the course of two days, the group surveyed just under 700 acres and discovered over 3,000 plants in the hills and harsh terrain outside of Vernal, Utah
"It was an ideal year to search for the Penstemon," said Degiorgio, "Following years of drought, the wet winter produced the most blooms seen in a decade."