Thanks to successful efforts by local and federal partners, the palo de rosa tree is on the path to recovery. The evergreen tree whose Spanish name describes its pink-colored wood, located in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, has shown substantial improvements since it was listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1990. Based on a review of the best available scientific and commercial information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to reclassify palo de rosa as a threatened species.
“We are proud of the successful implementation of recovery actions for this species, which brings it a step closer to full recovery,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, Regional Director for the Service’s South Atlantic-Gulf Region, which includes Puerto Rico. “We look forward to future collaborative work with our partners and private landowners to continue recovery efforts of this tree.”
After an extensive review, the Service found that the palo de rosa no longer fits the ESA’s definition of endangered and should be reclassified as threatened. The ESA defines endangered as “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” whereas threatened is defined as “likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” About 70 percent of the areas where palo de rosa individuals are known to occur are either protected or managed for conservation.
Rafael Machargo, Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, echoed the importance of this species and the partnerships giving it a brighter future, saying, “This is a significant step for a species coming from individual numbers as low as approximately 191 individuals in 13 wild populations in 2004. Now, the number of individuals is estimated to be 1,144 in 66 subpopulations throughout the island and I believe the collaborative efforts of wildlife biologists and conservation managers in Puerto Rico were critical for the recovery of the palo de rosa population,” Machargo said.
The Service is also proposing a 4(d) rule under the ESA. This proposed rule will allow for the conservation of palo de rosa by allowing regulatory flexibility under the ESA. As part of the proposed 4(d) rule, the Service could issue permits to carry out otherwise prohibited activities such as: importing or exporting; certain acts related to removing, damaging, and destroying; delivering, receiving, transporting, or shipping in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity; selling or offering for sale in interstate or foreign commerce; or collecting plant material (seeds, seedlings, propagules, or cuttings) and natural individuals or those planted to enhance the status of the species in the wild. Additionally, a permit may be issued for the following: scientific purposes, to enhance propagation or survival, for economic hardship, for botanical or horticultural exhibition, for educational purposes, or other purposes consistent with the purposes of the ESA.
The document will be placed on public inspection on July 13, 2021.
The document will publish on July 14, 2021.
We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before September 13, 2021. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for a public hearing, in writing, at the shown below (FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT) by August 30, 2021.
The public may submit comments on this proposed rule by one of the following methods:
(1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. In the Search box, enter FWS–R4–ES–2020–0059, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment”
(2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2020–0059, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W (JAO), 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.
The Service requests that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on regulations.gov.
This proposed rule, list of literature cited, and supporting documents are available on regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2020–0059.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edwin Muñiz, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, P.O. Box 491, Boquerón, PR 00622; telephone (787) 851–7297. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877–8339.