U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Southeast Region News Release

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                       Vicki M. Boatwright or

September 12, 1996                                Diana M. Hawkins

                    ROCK GNOME LICHEN DRAFT



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public input on a draft plan to recover the rock gnome lichen, a rare plant species that grows in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. According to the Service's Southeast Regional Director, Noreen K. Clough, this species, also known as Gymnoderma lineare, was listed as endangered January 18, 1995, under the Endangered Species Act. The rock gnome lichen lives in humid places, either in foggy mountainous areas at elevations above 5,000 feet or in deep river gorges.

Although populations are declining and vanishing for reasons that in many cases are not clearly understood, there are several major threats to remaining lichen populations that include collecting, logging, and habitat disturbance by numerous hikers and climbers. The species is also indirectly threatened by exotic insect pests and possibly air pollution, that destroy Fraser fir forests at higher elevations in the southern Appalachians. Only 33 lichen populations survive, and most of these are so small that they could fit inside the bed of a pickup truck.

In Tennessee, the rock gnome lichen is restricted to the Great Smoky Mountains in Sevier County. In North Carolina, populations occur in Mitchell, Jackson, Yancey, Swain, Transylvania, Buncombe, Avery, Ashe, Rutherford, and Haywood counties.

The revised draft recovery plan describes actions considered necessary for the conservation of the species. It also establishes criteria for recognizing the recovery levels for downlisting or delisting the species, and estimates the time and cost for implementing the recovery measures needed. Major objectives of the recovery plan are to protect currently occupied habitat, restore historical habitat and preserve material for reintroduction of the species, conduct applied research (especially into the connection between air pollution and the decline of this species), and increase public awareness of the species' plight.

The Service will accept the public's written comments on the revised draft recovery plan until November 4, 1996. Copies of the plan can be obtained from the Service by writing to the Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 160 Zillicoa Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801, or by calling 704/258-3939.

Release #R95-64

1996 News Releases

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