U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Designates Critical Habitat for the Golden Sedge
February 28, 2011
Critical habitat is designated for the golden sedge, a plant federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The designation includes approximately 202 acres in Onslow and Pender Counties, North Carolina. There are only eight known populations of the golden sedge, all southwest of the community of Maple Hill.
A critical habitat designation identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of critical habitat does not affect land ownership, establish a refuge or preserve, and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits. Federal agencies that undertake, fund or permit activities that may affect critical habitat are required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure such actions do not adversely modify or destroy designated critical habitat.
Threats to the golden sedge, which lasts for more than two growing seasons, include fire suppression, conversion of limited habitat for residential, commercial, or industrial development, highway and utility expansion, and wetland drainage activities associated with forestry, agriculture, and development projects. Herbicide applications along roadsides and utility rights of way also threaten its survival. In addition, permitting actions in wetlands by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could potentially impact this plant’s habitat.
The Service listed the species on January 23, 2002. Since then, The North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, North Carolina Department of Transportation, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and Progress Energy have partnered with the Service to help implement some recommended recovery actions for the sedge. In addition, more than 80 percent of the area included in the critical habitat designation is located on lands owned by the State of North Carolina or The Nature Conservancy.
The Service’s designation of critical habitat for the golden sedge appears in the March 1, 2011, Federal Register. Please visit the Federal Register website at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=FR .
The stems of the golden sedge may reach 39 inches or more in height. The plant’s yellowish-green leaves are grass-like and can be 11 inches in length, while those of the vegetative shoots reach a length of 25.6 inches. The plant only occurs in the outer coastal plain of North Carolina, in wet savannas or in very wet to saturated soils adjacent to or in shallow drainage ditches. As a result of its federal status as endangered, the plant is also listed as endangered in North Carolina by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
Designation of critical habitat was found to be not prudent when the golden sedge was proposed for listing as an endangered species (64 FR 44470; August 16, 1999); however, a critical habitat designation was found to be prudent in the final listing rule, but was deferred due to budgetary and workload constraints. On December 19, 2007, the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the Service’s failure to designate critical habitat for this species, as well as three other plant species (Center for Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne, C-04-3240 JL (N. D. Cal.). In a settlement agreement dated April 11, 2008, the Service agreed to submit for publication in the Federal Register a proposed designation of critical habitat, if prudent and determinable, on or before February 28, 2010, and a final determination by February 28, 2011.
Public comments on the proposed critical habitat designation and the associated draft economic analysis were accepted during two review periods. The final decision to designate critical habitat considered all comments and information received during those comment periods.
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. Visit the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/.