Two Rare Texas Plants Get Listing Nod

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed endangered status for the very rare Texas golden gladecress and threatened status for the large-flowered Neches River rose-mallow.
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     The USFWS also has proposed over 1500 combined acres of critical habitat for the species under the Endangered Species Act.
     The proposed rule is part of a 2011 court settlement between the USFWS and environmental groups that expedites federal protection decisions for 757 species across the country, according to a Center for Biological Diversity press release.
     The USFWS identified both plants as listing candidates in 1997, but further action was stalled by “higher listing priorities,” according to the proposed action.
     The gladecress is an annual mustard family plant just under 4 inches tall that requires shallow soil habitat with a high calcium content, such as limestone. Typical habitats for gladecress are extremely wet in the winter and parched in the summer, the regulation states. The mallow, in contrast, is a creamy-flowered perennial in the Hibiscus family growing over 7 feet tall, and found in water-saturated soils.
     The gladecress faces challenges from habitat loss due to quarrying, natural gas and oil exploration and production, encroachment from other plants, and herbicide use, says the proposal. The mallow habitat is lost or degraded by encroachment from trees, herbicide use, livestock trampling and changes due to seasonal flooding, according to the action. “Both species are also threatened by their small populations, a lack of regulatory mechanisms to protect their remaining habitat, and drought,” a WildEarth Guardians press release claims.
     Small population size is of particular concern for the gladecress. After 2009, approximately 400 plants in three populations were all that remained of this species, the proposed rule states. The largest population “was lost in 2011 when a pipeline route was constructed directly through it,” the action continues. The agency found that the gladecress was in danger of extinction throughout all of its range, and cited the severity and scope of the threat as the reason it proposed the species for endangered listing status.
     The agency finds that the mallow meets the definition for a threatened status listing because, even though it faces threats throughout its range, “the natural populations have maintained viable population numbers,” and some threats, such as a proposed reservoir construction project, are “not ongoing.”
     The agency proposes 1,353 acres of critical habitat for the gladecress in four areas of Sabine and San Augustine Counties in east Texas, that are a mix of private and public lands. Only 187 acres have been designated as critical habitat for the mallow in eleven units of mix-ownership lands in five other east Texas counties.
     The agency requests information and comments to be used in the formulation of the final rule.
     Click the document icon for this regulation and others.

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