Packard’s milkvetch might not have the sex appeal of the Selkirk Mountain woodland caribou.
But the purple-flowered plant is found only in a 10-square-mile area between Big Willow Creek to the south and Little Willow Creek to the north. Biologists have found about 5,000 plants around light-colored sedimentary outcroppings, with distinctive but not yet well understood soil characteristics.
What they suspect is that the soil prevents competition for the milkvetch from invasive species.
But what does threaten the plant — a candidate species for the endangered species list — is off-road use.
That prompted the Bureau of Land Management to temporarily close off 7,400 acres of public land in Payette County in 2011. Now the BLM is getting around to holding scoping meetings to ask the public for its ideas about protecting the plant and managing off-road use in the area.
Open-house-style hearings are scheduled 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. May 23 at McCain Middle School in Payette; and May 24 at Emmett Middle School in Emmett.
The BLM is preparing an environmental assessment. The plant grows in 26 known sites, 17 of which are on public lands.
It’s a typical but straightforward issue. If the BLM can’t find a way to protect the plants from off-road riders running over the plants or causing soil damage, the US Fish and Wildlife Service may be forced to list the plant threatened or endangered, which could entails even more restrictions.