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Pine rockland habitat in Florida. Photo by Jonathon Mays, FWC.

Fish and Wildlife Service proposes listing four south Florida plants as threatened or endangered

Vero Beach, Florida - Four plants only found in Miami-Dade, Collier, and Monroe Counties are being proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

A shrub, Everglades bully, a grass, Florida pineland crabgrass, and an herb, pineland sandmat, are being proposed for listing as threatened, meaning these plants are considered likely to become endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of their range.  In addition, another shrub, Florida prairie-clover, is being proposed for listing as endangered, meaning the prairie-clover is considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.  

“The populations of these four plants have declined about 80 percent over the past two decades,” said Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “Habitat loss and modification are the primary threats these plants face.”

The populations of these plants are small and isolated because most of the surrounding habitat is developed.  They occur on a mix of public and private land in the three South Florida counties.  The bulk of the remaining populations are on public lands.  The largest existing populations of Everglades bully and Florida pineland crabgrass occur within Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.  The largest remaining population of pineland sandmat occurs within Everglades National Park.  Everglades bully and pineland sandmat also retain small populations on private and county-managed lands outside of the Everglades or Big Cypress National Preserve.  Florida pineland crabgrass only remains on public lands.  Florida prairie-clover is found within Big Cypress National Preserve in mainland Monroe County, as well as on private and county-managed locations in Miami-Dade County.   The prairie clover also exists on one reintroduced site on Virginia Key.  

The Service is seeking new information from the public and the scientific community that will help in making a final determination about the proposed listings.   Critical habitat designations will be proposed later in a separate action.  A draft economic analysis of the proposed designation will be prepared at the same time.

One of these plants–the Everglades bully–is found in the Miami-area pine rockland habitat being considered for two construction projects: Coral Reef Commons and Miami Wilds.

It is not prohibited by the ESA to destroy, damage or move endangered or threatened plants unless such activities are on federal land or if the action occurs in violation of state laws.  If a person wishes to develop private land, with no federal jurisdiction involved, in accordance with state law, then the potential destruction, damage, or movement of endangered or threatened plants does not violate the ESA.  At present, only Everglades bully is known to occur within the Richmond Pine Rocklands, while Florida pineland crabgrass was known to occur there, historically. If the listing is finalized, the plants would be protected from commercial trade.  In addition, states may have their own laws restricting activities involving listed plants.  

Everglades bully, Florida pineland crabgrass, pineland sandmat, and Florida prairie-clover are are listed on the State of Florida’s Regulated Plant Index as endangered under chapter 5B-40, Florida Administrative Code.  This listing provides little or no habitat protection beyond the State’s development of a regional impact process, which discloses impacts from projects, but provides no regulatory protection for state-listed plants on private lands

The Service will decide whether to extend ESA protection for these plants after evaluating all available information.  The Service is seeking information on distribution and threats to these plants and their habitat.  If the four plants are listed under the ESA, the Service will continue working cooperatively with partners to conserve their habitat.  In addition, federal agencies would need to ensure activities they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of these plants.

The proposal to list these plants is part of the Service’s efforts to implement a court-approved work plan under a Multi-District Listing agreement aimed at addressing a series of lawsuits concerning the agency’s ESA listing program.  The intent of the agreement is to conserve species and significantly reduce a litigation-driven workload.  For more information, please see http://www.fws.gov/southeast/candidateconservation/.

The rule that proposes listing of these four plants will be published in the Federal Register on October 11, 2016.  Public comments on the proposed listings of these plants can be submitted for the next 60 days through December 12, 2016. Requests for a public hearing must be made in writing by November 25, 2016.   To request a public hearing, please contact Ken Warren, South Florida Ecological Services Field Office at 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 32960-3559; phone at 772-469-4323, or e-mail at ken_warren@fws.gov.

Comments on the proposed listings should be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov - Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2016–0090.
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2016–0090 for the proposed listing of these plants,, Division of Policy, Performance and Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803. All comments, including personal information, will made be available on http://www.regulations.gov.

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 can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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