The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the prostrate milkweed, a rare flowering plant native to south Texas and northeastern Mexico, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service is also proposing 691 acres of critical habitat in two Texas counties.
This listing and critical habitat proposal is based on the best available science, including a species status assessment that included input and review from academia and state agencies. ESA protections will help raise awareness about the threats to this plant and inspire diverse partnerships on its behalf.
“Prostrate milkweed’s flowers attract and support native pollinators, especially large bees and wasps, and it is a host plant for monarch butterflies,” said Chris Best, state botanist for the Service in Texas. “Unfortunately, this species is negatively impacted by competition from introduced buffelgrass and increased development in its native Tamaulipan shrubland habitat. Fortunately, prostrate milkweed appears to be very compatible with livestock grazing on rangeland.”
Other threats to prostrate milkweed include habitat loss and degradation from root-plowing; habitat loss from energy development, road and utility construction, and right-of-way maintenance; habitat loss from border security and enforcement activities; and the demographic and genetic consequences of small population sizes.
Proposed critical habitat for prostrate milkweed occurs in eight occupied areas that are particularly important for the conservation of the species in Starr and Zapata counties near the Rio Grande.
Critical habitat is defined by the ESA as the geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a listed species and that 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.
Prostrate milkweed was petitioned for listing in 2007, and in 2009 the Service found the petition presented substantial information that listing may be warranted.
This proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register on Feb. 15, 2022 and public comments will be accepted until April 18, 2022. We encourage the public, academia, federal and state agencies, industry and other stakeholders to review the proposal and provide comments.
America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all citizens, and ensuring the health of imperiled species and their habitats is a shared responsibility. The Service is working to actively engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.