For Immediate Release
November 17, 1998

Contact: Tom MacKenzie
404/679-7291

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE DETERMINES TWO VIRGIN ISLAND PLANTS
MAY WARRANT LISTING UNDER ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that two plant species native to the Virgin Islands, Agave eggersiana and Solanum conocarpum, may warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act and is seeking scientific information and public comment related to a petition to list the species.

Earlier this year, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources of the U.S. Virgin Islands petitioned the Service to list these two species of plants as endangered. An "endangered" listing means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

The Service's Southeast Regional Director, Sam D. Hamilton, said an initial review of the petition found it to contain substantial information indicating the listing may be warranted. The Service now will conduct a more thorough review of the species' status before making a decision whether to propose to list them.

Few specimens of either plant remain in existence. Biologists have found only two Solanum conocarpum individuals on St. John: one on privately-owned land and the other on Virgin Island National Park Service land. This thornless shrub can reach more than 9 feet in height.

A small number of cultivated and wild specimens of Agave eggersiana, a member of the century plant family, still exists on privately-owned land on the island of St. Croix. Threats to this species include residential and tourist development on private land and the presence of feral pigs and goats on National Park Service land. This robust perennial herb reaches from 16 to 23 feet in height and has large succulent or fibrous leaves with a stiff spine at the top. Flowers are large and funnelform or tubular.

The Service requests the public, concerned government agencies, the scientific community, industry, or any other interested parties submit additional data, comments, and suggestions concerning the status of these two species by (insert date 60 days after publication in the Federal Register) to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Boquerón Field Office, Box 491, Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts.

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Release #: R98-113


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