Virgin Island Plants do not Warrant Endangered Species Act Protection
Today’s decision is in response to a petition from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) to list these species under the ESA. The Service made a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial information in making this finding. The agency also consulted with plant experts, including those most familiar with the species, and other governmental agencies.
Based on all the information gathered, the Service found no evidence that either plant warrants listing as threatened or endangered under the criteria for listing contained in the ESA. The Service’s review found insufficient information to determine the true status of either plant in the wild and a lack of sufficient evidence of which threats, if any, affect the species. There is no evidence of serious threats to the species from overutilization for commercial, recreational, or educational purposes, nor from inadequacies in existing regulatory mechanisms. There are also no data to show that destruction or curtailment of the species’ habitat or range, disease or predation, or other natural or man-made factors threaten the plants.
However, this determination does not preclude the possibility of listing either species in the future. The Service will continue to monitor the status of the plants and their habitats, and will accept additional information and comments at any time. Any new information, materials, comments, or questions concerning these species or this finding may be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Road 301, Km. 5.1, P.O. Box 491, Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622.
Agave eggersiana is a robust, perennial herb that can grow from 16 to 23 feet tall. Its flowers are large and funnel or tubular shaped. A. eggersiana is native to the island of St. Croix of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Solanum conocarpum is a thornless flowering shrub which may reach more than 9 feet in height. S. conocarpum is native to the island of St. John of the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are 200 known individuals of S. conocarpum in the wild, and most are within the Virgin Islands National Park (VINP).
On November 21, 1996, the Service received a petition from the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) requesting the listing of the two species as endangered. The agency published an initial finding that the petition presented substantial information indicating the requested action may be warranted in the Federal Register on November 16, 1998.
A 12-month status review was initiated. On September 1, 2004, a lawsuit was filed against the Department of the Interior and the Service by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the fact that a 12-month finding was not published. In a Stipulated Settlement Agreement dated April 27, 2005, the Service agreed to submit a 12-month finding to the Federal Register by February 28, 2006.
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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 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 and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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