A shrub once only known to Puerto Rico and Saba Island, a municipality of the Netherlands, is on a path to recovery. Since its listing as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1994, additional populations of Mitracarpus polycladus have been found on the island of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands.
Based on a review of the best scientific and commercial information available, including analyses of threats and populations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reclassifying the shrub from endangered to threatened.
“With increased attention to the needs of this plant and proactive survey efforts, we are able to share more good news about the status of this plant,” said Mike Oetker, the Service’s Acting Southeast Regional Director. “Our partners have assisted us with increased habitat conservation and scientific survey efforts, bringing us to a point where we are able to say that this plant is now more abundant than when it was first listed under the Endangered Species Act.”
Of the current estimated 20,000 plants, about 89 percent occur in areas managed for conservation. Threats due to habitat modification and destruction resulting from urban development are greatly reduced in these areas. The remaining 11 percent occur on private property where they are more vulnerable to threats from urbanization and development.
Ongoing threats to the species include habitat destruction and modification due to road and trail maintenance, trampling (intense trail use), fires, non-native , urbanization, development for tourism, and the effects of . To mitigate threats, the Service conducts surveys and monitors natural populations, taking steps to minimize the impact of non-native grasses and establishing firebreaks to protect the species and its habitat.
Multiple partners have been working with the Service on recovery efforts for the plant, including the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER) and Protectores de Cuenca. The Service will continue to work with PRDNER and private landowners and other partners on the monitoring and surveying of unexplored Mitracarpus polycladus habitat to develop sound conservation strategies and proactively identify priority areas for conservation.
With this downlisting, the Service is also enacting a 4(d) rule. For a threatened species, the Service may use the flexibility provided under the ESA’s section 4(d) to tailor take prohibitions to those that provide conservation benefits for the species – referred to as a 4(d) rule. This targeted approach can reduce ESA conflicts by allowing some activities to continue that may benefit and not significantly harm Mitracarpus polycladus, while focusing efforts on the threats that slow the species’ recovery. These customized protections minimize the regulatory burden while maximizing the likelihood of recovery for threatened species. The 4(d) rule for Mitracarpus polycladus applies the prohibitions for endangered plants (50 CFR 17.61) with standard exceptions to the prohibitions to allow partners to work with cultivated seeds on recovery actions.
The purpose of the ESA is to conserve endangered and threatened species and the ecosystems on which they depend. The ESA is extraordinarily effective at preventing species from going extinct and has inspired action to conserve at-risk species and their habitat before they need to be listed as threatened or endangered. More than 99 percent of all listed species are still with us today since the ESA was signed into law in 1973. As a result of the ESA, more than 100 species of plants and animals have been delisted based on recovery or downlisted from endangered to threatened.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Edwin Muñiz, Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, P.O. Box 491, Boquerón, Puerto Rico 00622; telephone: (786) 244-0081. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), may call the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.
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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit https://www.fws.gov/program/southeast-region. Connect with us on social media: Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Flickr, and YouTube.