WASHINGTON (CN) – A proposed copper mine and livestock grazing threaten to wipe out an extremely rare orchid found only in two Arizona mountain ranges, and Uncle Sam is refusing to list the orchid as an endangered species, the Center for Biological Diversity claims in Federal Court.
The Tucson-based environmental group sued Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, claiming their failure to make a mandatory 12-month finding on whether to list Coleman’s coral-root (Hexalectris revoluta) as endangered violates the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
“The Coleman’s coral-root is an extremely rare orchid that occurs only in the Santa Rita and Dragoon mountains in Pima, Cochise, and Santa Cruz counties in Arizona,” the complaint states. “Only about 200 of the otherwise subterranean plants bloom in a given year. The coral-root has a narrow distribution and grows only in association with symbiotic fungi found in the roots of host trees and shrubs, making the flower vulnerable to extirpation from any action that disturbs the soil or disrupts the relationship between the orchid, fungi, and the woody hosts.”
The environmentalists say a proposed open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains and continuing problems caused by livestock grazing, recreation and other activities prompted it to petition the FWS in September 2010 to list the orchid as an endangered or threatened species. Fish and Wildlife responded with a letter confirming that the listing may be warranted, citing positive finding on Chisos coral-root.
“To date, however, nearly two years after receiving the Center’s petition, FWS has failed to issue the required 12-month finding as to whether listing the Coleman’s coral-root is, indeed, warranted,” the complaint states.
The Center seeks declaratory judgment and wants the defendants ordered to determine whether the orchid should be listed.
The Center for Biological Diversity is represented by house counsel Amy Atwood, of Portland, Ore.