Kentucky Plant May Be Listed, With Habitat

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to list the Kentucky glade cress as threatened throughout its range under the Endangered Species Act, and plans to designate 2,053 acres of critical habitat for it in two Kentucky counties, according to two proposed rules.
     “The Kentucky glade cress is one of Kentucky’s rarest plants, and it exists on the outskirts of the rapidly growing metro Louisville area,” Lee Andrews, supervisor of the USFWS’ Kentucky Field Office said in a press release. “We hope that landowners and local governments will help us conserve this plant and its habitat through improved management and land protection efforts.”
     The listing proposal is the result of a 2011 settlement agreement between the USFWS and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other environmental groups to speed listing protections for 757 animal and plant species across the country, according to the CBD’s press release.
     “Protection for this little Kentucky wildflower was sure a long time coming – 38 years, to be exact,” Tierra Curry, conservation biologist at the CBD, noted in the group’s statement.
     The glade cress is a small annual plant in the mustard family with white to lavender flowers that grows on thin soil in full sun. It is found in only two counties in Kentucky, in the extreme southeastern part of Jefferson County and the northeastern portion of Bullitt County. Its habitat has declined due to rapid residential and commercial development and the activities that go with that, such as grading, paving, mowing, grazing, spraying and recreational uses, the agency said.
     The agency is proposing the plant for threatened status rather than endangered status due to the “relatively high current number of extant populations,” according to the action. However, the agency also noted that of the current 61 populations, approximately half are “poor-quality occurrences,” on residential lawns, which are not thought to be sustainable.
     Critical habitat designation means that a listed species is protected if it is on federal land or if there is a federal action on private land that may affect the species. “Most use of critical habitat by the public will not be affected by the critical habitat designation. Private land uses, such as landscaping, farming and silviculture, also will be unaffected. When a species is listed or critical habitat is designated, federal agencies are required to ensure that their activities will not jeopardize the continued existence of the species or destroy or modify critical habitat. Federal activities, or actions permitted, licensed, or funded by federal agencies, will require consultation with the Service if they are likely to adversely affect the species or modify critical habitat,” the agency noted in their fact sheet.
     Comments on both proposed rules are due by July 23, and requests for public hearings must be received by July 8.

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