Federally Listed Plant Species Now in Pa. Could Trigger New Botanical Surveys

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In 2017, running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum) was found growing in Greene County, Pennsylvania. This is the first known occurrence of this federally endangered clover in Pennsylvania. Users of the Pennsylvania Conservation Explorer tool who are completing an environmental review for projects in Greene County may now start seeing survey requests for this species, which will require a botanical survey to be completed by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)-Qualified Surveyor.

While conducting a botanical survey last summer, a botanist with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy identified running buffalo clover plants growing along a Pennsylvania stream. Running buffalo clover has been found very close to the Pennsylvania border in the past, and its discovery within Pennsylvania does not come as a surprise to botanists in the southwestern corner of the state. 

Following discussions at Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), charged with implementing the Wild Resource Conservation Act (PA Code Title 17 Chapter 45), and the USFWS, charged with administering the Threatened and Endangered Species Act, the new running buffalo clover population has been added to the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory (PNDI).  Natural gas, coal, and oil producers, plus pipeline and utility companies, may now start receiving survey requests on PNDI searches occurring near the newly discovered population in Greene County.

Unlike botanical surveys requested by DCNR for Pennsylvania-listed plant species, the USFWS requires the use of Qualified Surveyors for botanical presence/absence surveys. Each USFWS Field Office maintains a separate list of Qualified Surveyors—persons known by the USFWS to have the skills and experience to conduct surveys—for each listed species. The USFWS Pennsylvania Field Office does not have plans to issue a Qualified Surveyors list for running buffalo clover at this time, but will accept surveyors listed as qualified by the Ohio or West Virginia Field Offices. The survey season has not yet been established for Pennsylvania, but it is expected to be somewhere within a May-to-September window.

Though DCNR has the authority to request botanical surveys for running buffalo clover in Pennsylvania, DCNR will typically defer to the USFWS for final decisions regarding this federally endangered clover, similar to the relationship between the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the USFWS for potential impacts to federally listed bat species.

If you have questions about running buffalo clover in Pennsylvania, please contact David Quatchak (dquatchak@cecinc.com) or Joe Isaac (jisaac@cecinc.com). Mr. Quatchak and Mr. Isaac are USFWS-Qualified Surveyors for Running Buffalo Clover in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Both individuals can also be reached at 800-365-2324.

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