Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
Summary and Evaluation
The Western Prairie Fringed Orchid 5-Year Review is a 39 page document. Below are the following sections: Methodology, Synthesis, Results, and Recommendations for Future Actions. Click here to view or download a PDF file of the complete 5-Year Review.
1.2 Methodology used to complete the review:
The review was conducted by Phil Delphey in the Twin Cities Field Office in coordination with other field offices in the Mountain-Prairie and Southwest Regions.
The Service solicited information from the public through a Federal Register notice (71
FR 16177) and also reviewed reports and scientific papers that had been completed since
the November 1991 5-year review (which includes the species’ 1996 approved recovery
plan). We reviewed each document for significant information, beginning with the
earliest document not cited in the recovery plan (i.e., Fauske and Rider 1996 – see
References). In addition, we relied extensively on a database containing information on each occurrence of western prairie fringed orchid, which the Service maintains at its Twin Cities Ecological Services Field Office.
Significant progress has been made to protect western prairie fringed orchid populations in some portions of its range (see above – Table 1), where approximately 83% of the plants are on sites with protection, but substantial protective actions are still necessary in some ecological sections, especially 332C (Nebraska Sand Hills), 251H (Nebraska Rolling Hills), 251G (Missouri Loess Hills), and 251B (North Central Glaciated Plains). These sections are concentrated in the central and southern portions of the species’ range.
Populations under protective ownership must also be appropriately managed and not subject to threats from hydrologic alteration or impacts of pesticides and herbicides to be considered contributing to recovery.
As noted above, the Sheyenne National Grassland has prepared and begun implementing
a comprehensive grazing management plan with a stated intention of conserving western
prairie fringed orchid populations. Effective and comprehensive monitoring will be necessary to confirm that grazing will be implemented in a manner appropriate to the conservation of western prairie fringed orchid. The outcome of implementing the grazing
plan will have a major impact on the recovery of the species in the Red River Valley ecological section (251A).
At present, the recovery criteria may not adequately address all current threats to the
species. The Service will work with the recovery team to determine how the recovery
criteria may be revised to address all current threats and the recent changes in ecoregional
mapping and to ensure that criteria are objective and measurable. Issues that have arisen
since the approval of the recovery plan that need to be addressed include: 1) drainage and other actions that directly or indirectly lower water levels in the rooting zone of
plants; 2) collection of plants from small populations; 3) small, isolated populations with low seed set; and 4) herbicide and pesticide impacts to western prairie fringed orchid and
It is unclear whether collection of plants from small populations is still a threat that is significantly affecting the likelihood that P. praeclara will become endangered in the foreseeable future. If the Service determines that it is a threat to the species, then the recovery criteria should be revised to address it. Development of a population viability criterion may address the threat of small and isolated populations with low seed set because populations facing this threat would have to reach viable levels to be counted toward recovery.
Previously recognized and new threats affect the existence of the western prairie fringed orchid to the extent that it may become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout
all or a significant portion of its range. Therefore, this species continues to meet the
definition of threatened. The listing classification of the western prairie fringed orchid should remain as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
3.1 Recommended Classification: No change is needed.
3.2 New Recovery Priority Number
We do not propose a change in the recovery priority number for western prairie fringed orchid.
Although numerous threats to western prairie fringed orchid have been identified,
a significant proportion of populations in some ecological regions have been
protected from direct habitat destruction (e.g., plowing). Substantial actions to
protect populations from habitat destruction, however, are still needed in some
ecological sections. Therefore, it is still appropriate to describe the level of
threats as “moderate.” Significant questions remain as to how to best manage
western prairie fringed orchid, but a fair amount of new information to guide
management planning has been obtained since the approval of the recovery plan
in 1996. The ongoing study in northwestern Minnesota and implementation of
the grazing management plan at SNG, for example, will likely provide managers
with useful information to conserve this species. Although many populations are
small, especially in some ecoregions, we think that the recovery potential for the species is still “high”, primarily due to the large proportion of populations that
occur on areas protected from habitat destruction in some ecological sections (Table 1).
3.3 Listing and Reclassification Priority Number: N/A.
4.0 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE ACTIONS
• Revise the recovery criteria to include clear and measurable standards to determine
whether western prairie fringed orchid plants are part of a viable population. The
recovery criteria require that plants be under protective ownership or control and
appropriately managed to count towards recovery in each ecoregion. There are no
standards within the criteria, however, to assess whether these plants are part of
populations that are viable. Although not addressed by the recovery criteria, actions 42
(Determine parameters required to maintain viable self-sustaining populations) and 424
(Conduct a population viability analysis for the species) do address this issue and a
preliminary population viability analysis has been completed based on demographic
• Ensure that any revised recovery criteria are objective and measurable and address the following threats, as appropriate:
- Drainage and other actions that directly or indirectly lower water levels in the rooting zone of plants
- Isolation and low reproduction of small populations
- Herbicide and pesticide impacts to western prairie fringed orchid and its
- Collection of plants from small populations
- Effects of invading exotic species and actions to control those species
- Inter-seeding of non-native species into wet prairie in Nebraska, especially creeping foxtail (Alopecurus arundinaceus Poir, also called Garrison creeping foxtail)
• Describe a process by which the Service will evaluate management plans for the purposes
of measuring progress towards recovery. This should include a description of the
Service’s review process (e.g., who will conduct and approve these reviews for the
Service) and the basis for evaluating the adequacy of each plan. The following excerpts
from the recovery plan may be useful for evaluating management plans until more specific guidance is developed:
- Populations must be protected from hydrologic alterations and pesticide impacts (p. 17).
- Appropriate management must be implemented for at least three management
cycles (e.g., if guidelines call for prescribed fire at a specified interval or range of intervals, the guidelines would not be fully implemented until the third prescribed burn has taken place at the appropriate intervals, p. 17).
- “Where sites are too small to permit natural succession to occur, manage communities to maintain the species’ specific microhabitat requirements” (pp. 22-
- Plans should focus “on maintaining or restoring the composition, function, and structure of the ecosystem on which western prairie fringed orchid depends” (p. 24).
- Management practices should “duplicate the natural processes of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem” (p. 24).
- The plan should include a process for regular review and refinement of the management practices as relevant research becomes available (p. 24).
• Compile existing management plans for sites where western prairie fringed orchid is extant
and protected from conversion and determine whether they are adequate to ensure the conservation of the respective western prairie fringed orchid populations.
• Implement recovery action 33 – Develop or maintain appropriate mowing regimes (U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service 1996:20). Steinauer (2000:4) briefly summarized the importance of the
Nebraska’s eastern Sandhills region for the conservation of western prairie fringed orchid and suggested that significant progress towards the species’ conservation could be made by modifying haying practices at some sites.
• Conduct additional surveys in the Nebraska Sandhills when soil moisture levels may be suitable for significant levels of flowering. Additional surveys in this region may identify additional populations of western prairie fringed orchid (Steinauer 2000:4), but significant
surveys have not been conducted since 2000 (recovery action 52 – Identify and search potential new sites [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1996:22]).
• Improve tracking of invasive species threats for each site, in cooperation with the states and others, to determine the relative range-wide harm of each invasive species. Invasive species
should be identified as a threat at a site if they are present and if current or anticipated
management is unlikely to be sufficient to control invasives to the extent that the invasive(s) will no longer pose a threat to western prairie fringed orchid.
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