FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2000 Contact:
Diana Hawkins (FWS) 404/679-7293
Elsie Davis (FWS) 404/679-7107
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to reclassify the large-flowered skullcap, a plant found in Georgia and Tennessee, from endangered status to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act.
Under the Act, a species is designated as endangered when it is at risk of becoming extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range. A threatened designation means the species is likely to become endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
Since the large-flowered skullcap was listed as an endangered species in 1986, many Federal and State agencies and private organizations have searched for, and protected, populations of this plant. The Tennessee Valley Authority annually surveys known populations and also conducts annual searches for additional populations. The National Park Service also monitors populations on its lands. Both the Tennessee and Georgia Natural Heritage Inventories have conducted surveys that discovered new populations. The Tennessee River Gorge Trust now owns and protects some of the largest populations.
The large-flowered skullcap (Scutellaria montana) is a perennial herb with solitary, erect, square stems usually from 12 to 20 inches tall. It is typically found on rocky, dry slopes, ravines, and stream bottom forests in the ridges, valleys and Cumberland Plateau of northwestern Georgia (Dade, Floyd, Chattooga, Gordon, Catoosa, and Walker Counties) and adjacent southeastern Tennessee (Hamilton, Marion, and Sequatchie Counties).
The Service completed a recovery plan for large-flowered skullcap in 1996 which stated that the large-flowered skullcap should be considered for removal from the list of threatened and endangered species when there are 15 adequately protected and managed, self-sustaining populations. Currently there are 11 self-sustaining populations. A population is considered "self-sustaining" if monitoring data shows that it is reproducing successfully and is stable or increasing in size. The minimum number of individuals necessary for a self-sustaining population is 100. Populations must be distributed throughout the speciesí range and must be maintained for 10 years.
The recovery plan states also that if the number of populations increases to 25 because of the discovery or establishment of additional populations, or the number of protected and managed self-sustaining populations increases to 10 or more -- distributed throughout the known geographic range -- the species should be considered for downlisting to threatened status.
The criteria for downlisting have been met through both the number of known populations, 32, and number of self-sustaining protected populations, 11, distributed throughout the range of the species.
The Service published the proposal to downlist the large-flowered skullcap in the July 12, 2000 Federal Register. The public may provide written comment on the proposal by September 11, 2000. Comments may be directed to the State Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Asheville Field Office, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28806, and will be accepted by September 11, 2000. Requests for a public hearing must be submitted to the same address by August 28, 2000. For more information, contact the address above or call 828/258-3939.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices 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. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
Release #: R00-030