Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Draft 5-Year Status Review of Texas Snowbells Submitted
Southwest Region, August 8, 2008
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The Austin Ecological Services Office submitted a draft Texas snowbells 5-year review to the Regional Office on August 8, 2008.  Texas snowbells was listed as endangered on October 12, 1984, based on the following threats: (1) only 25 sites with plants were known to exist, 24 of those were privately owned and 1 was owned by the State; (2) stream bank erosion; (3) the possibility that cattle and/or deer browsing were reducing seedlings and young plants; and (4) lack of reproduction due to small population sizes.  Additional and more refined threats at the time we published the recovery plan were:  (1) browsing by deer, goats, cattle, sheep, and exotic ungulates; (2) flooding and soil erosion; (3) diseases of fungal or bacterial origin; and (4) alteration of groundwater.  While we had additional species and distribution information at the time we published the recovery plan in 1987, it was not adequate to draft recovery criteria. 

More than two decades of research, monitoring, reintroduction, and searching has greatly increased our knowledge of the species; the distribution has been refined to the Devils and Nueces rivers in Edwards, Real, and Val Verde counties; and almost 1,000 plants have been located range-wide.  We are encouraged by these numbers and the ongoing conservation, reintroduction, and research efforts.  Due to the current state of knowledge on Texas snowbells, we have drafted recovery criteria for the species and we plan on publishing them in a draft revised recovery plan in FY09.

We are also encouraged by the lack of threats from collection (discussed in the final listing rule as a possibility), disease, and groundwater alteration.  Additionally, we believe threats from drought, flooding, and erosion will be minimal when population levels and representative life stages are sufficient to prevent extinction.  Herbivory, however, is still the primary threat to the continued existence of Texas snowbells throughout its range.  Every threat is exacerbated when populations are small and minimal reproduction is occurring.  Due to the limited distribution of the species and the amount of private lands in the area, we are relying on private landowners to assist in recovering this species.  While there has been an increase in conservation efforts by private landowners for this species, available data indicate population numbers are still not at levels that are believed necessary for long-term viability.  Additionally, there are no protections in place, such as fencing of plants, to ensure long-term survival for the species.  Until such time we recommend Texas snowbells status remain the same.

Contact Info: Bill Seawell, 512 490-0057, bill_seawell@fws.gov
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