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A black, grey and yellow snake with a rounded head.
Information icon Southern hognose snake. Photo by Pierson Hill, FWC.

Service determines six Southeastern species do not warrant Endangered Species Act protections

Science-based reviews show populations are healthy, stable and protected, and species do not face threat of extinction

Based on reviews of the best available science, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that the Florida clamshell orchid, Ocala vetch, yellow anisetree, redlips darter, Berry Cave salamander and southern hognose snake do not face the threat of extinction now or in the foreseeable future. Protection of these species on existing conservation lands and new survey data helped inform the reviews, and as such, the Service determined that none of the species warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

For each species, the Service brought together a team of biologists that compiled and examined all known data and research. The peer-reviewed findings for each are outlined in species status assessments (SSA). SSAs use the conservation biology principles of resiliency, redundancy and representation. The SSA reports for each of these species and detailed descriptions of the basis for each of these findings will be published in the Federal Register on October 7, 2019.

The Service will continue to support partners in their conservation and research efforts on behalf of these plants and animals. We also ask the public to submit to us, at any time, new information that may be relevant to the status of any of these species or their habitats, as it becomes available.

Summaries of each species are as follows:

Florida clamshell orchid

The Florida clamshell orchid is a visually stunning plant native to southern Florida. There are 15 populations, all occurring on public lands managed for conservation. This includes an estimated 8,000 plants in two populations in Everglades National Park, an estimated 2,000 plants in one population in Big Cypress National Preserve, and an estimated 450 plants in one population in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. There has also been a successful propagation and reintroduction program for the orchid on Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Our recent SSA showed the species is resilient to threats and disturbances. Despite the fact that the species has been subjected to past habitat modification and destruction (clear-cut and drainage of habitats) along with effects from hurricanes, its South Florida populations have remained stable. There is currently no concentration of large-scale threats in any portion of the Florida clamshell orchid’s range.

Ocala vetch

The Ocala vetch is a perennial, climbing vine that occurs in open, wet thickets on emergent vegetation along the banks of streams and spring runs. The vine is found in Volusia County, southeastern Marion and northern Lake counties in Florida. Two new populations were discovered in 2018, and all known populations occur on federally owned lands with existing plans for its management and protection. The SSA for the Ocala vetch demonstrates the plant’s resiliency, redundancy, and representation across its range and its viability into the foreseeable future.

Yellow anisetree

The yellow anisetree is a perennial, fragrant, evergreen shrub found in north-central peninsular Florida along the upper St. John’s River in Lake, Marion, Orange, Polk, Putnam, Seminole and Volusia counties. This range includes a slightly expanded range in Putnam and Seminole counties and six new locations within the Ocala National Forest. According to the SSA, approximately 90 percent of the yellow anisetree populations occur on public and privately owned lands that are managed at least partially for conservation purposes. The plant is also cultivated commercially and widely used in ornamental landscaping.

Redlips darter

The redlips darter is a small fish native to the Cumberland River Valley of Kentucky and Tennessee. For many years, it was thought to be the same fish as the ashy darter found in the Tennessee River Valley, but examinations of genetics, coloration and body shape led scientists to classify it as a distinct species in 2012. In 2007, the fish was seen in Tennessee’s Obey River for the first time in more than 34 years. Recent searches for the fish in Kentucky have uncovered it in portions Buck Creek where it had never before been seen, expanding its known range by more than six river miles.

Berry Cave salamander

The Berry Cave salamander is a long-bodied salamander that is known from springs and caves in eastern Tennessee. Currently there are nine caves in Knox, McMinn, Meigs and Roane counties with known occurrences of Berry Cave salamanders. Several of those sites are on private lands with conservation measures in place, such as gated entrances, conservation easements and management agreements. The Service’s SSA for the salamander identified primary threats of impacts to streams from sediments and pollutants and active conservation measures being taken to reduce or eliminate them.

Southern hognose snake

One of five species of hognose snakes native to North America, the southern hognose snake is a small, heavy-bodied snake that typically does not grow more than two feet in length. Native to the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States, its current range is North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, with historic records in Alabama and Mississippi. Known for defensive displays that include hissing, flattening of the neck, and feigning death, hognose snakes are commonly referred to as hissing adders, blowing vipers, puff adders or spreading adders. Despite the theatrics, southern hognose snakes are not dangerous to humans. Threats to the southern hognose snake include: habitat loss, road mortality and impacts from invasive species, such as fire ants and feral hogs. Additional factors that could affect the species include increased temperatures, decreased precipitation, increased severe weather events such as drought, flooding or storms, changes in wildfire frequency and intensity, lack of prescribed burns, sea-level rise, collection for the pet trade and disease. After reviewing the threats and the species’ response to those threats, the Service has concluded that the southern hognose snake is not in danger of extinction or likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Although the Service recognizes the southern hognose snake range has become more restricted, populations are still found across much of the historical range, to include protected lands. The Service will continue to work with partners on measures to protect the species’ viability.

Detailed descriptions of these findings and contact information for each are available online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal under the following docket numbers:

Species Docket Number
Florida clamshell orchid FWS–R4–ES–2019–0075
Ocala vetch FWS–R4–ES–2019–0077
Yellow anise tree FWS–R4–ES–2019–0079
Redlips darter FWS–R4–ES–2019–0078
Berry Cave salamander FWS–R4–ES–2019–0048
Southern hognose snake FWS–R4–ES–2015–0063

Since 2011, more than 180 species in the eastern United States did not need federal protection as a result of conservation, additional information such as survey data, and/or reevaluation of threats to their survival. The effort to conserve at-risk wildlife and plants and recover listed species is led by the Service and state wildlife agencies in partnership with other government agencies, private landowners, conservation groups, tribes, businesses, utilities and others. It has drawn support for its use of incentives and flexibilities within the ESA to protect rare wildlife, reduce regulations and keep working lands working.

Contact

Phil Kloer, Public Affairs Specialist
philip_kloer@fws.gov, (404) 679-7299

Jennifer Koches, Public Affairs Specialist
jenniferkoches@fws.gov, (843) 300-0424

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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