"Preble's meadow jumping mouse, the mountain-loving sedge, the carrionflower greenbriar and the forktip three-awn all make their home in the 5,000 acres that is the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
But the rare mouse and plant species also share space with the residual contaminants from the nuclear weapons production facility that once sat on the Colorado site. Since 2005 -- when the Department of Energy transferred the site to the Fish and Wildlife Service -- Rocky Flats has been mired in controversy, with local activists claiming that left-over plutonium poses a risk for nearby residents.
A recent report from the Interior Department's inspector general adds another mark against the site: An invasive weed is quickly spreading through the refuge, displacing native species but also risking the migration of nuclear contaminants to surface water.
FWS appears caught in a Catch-22. According to the report, the agency does not have the funds to take constant care of the site, but even if Congress appropriates new money, FWS may not be able to conduct its usual restoration methods because U.S. EPA has warned that the site's nuclear history could rule out the necessary plowing."
Emily Yehle reports for Greenwire August 1, 2011.