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A pinkish green flower petal growing off of a mossy covered surface
Information icon *Lepanthes eltoroensis*. Photo © O Monsegur.

Partners celebrate recovery of tiny orchid in Puerto Rico

Service proposes to remove federal protections for Lepanthes eltoroensis

Thanks to a successful conservation partnership involving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, a tiny orchid, Lepanthes eltoroensis, is being proposed for delisting from the Federal List of Threatened and Endangered Plants.

The orchid is restricted to one general area within El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico at elevations above 2,461 feet. However, the orchid’s estimated population has increased from around 140 individuals, when it was listed as an endangered species in 1991, to a current estimate of about 3,000 individuals.

A pinkish green flower petal growing off of a mossy covered surface
Lepanthes eltoroensis. Photo © J. Valentin.

“Conservation partnerships are key to making the Endangered Species Act work, and in this case it has worked very well,” said Leo Miranda, Regional Director for the Service. “The recovery of this species would not have been possible without the support of the U.S. Forest Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.”

“This orchid’s recovery is a direct result of resource managers of federal and commonwealth agencies, biologists, scientists and academia working together toward a shared goal,” said El Yunque National Forest ecologist Ricardo Santiago Garcia with the U.S. Forest Service. “We continue to support the monitoring of the population status of the Lepanthes eltoroenis, especially after the hurricanes, and seek more information regarding the species’ biology and population numbers.”

Lepanthes eltoroenis is an orchid that lives on moss-covered trunks of several species of trees within the El Yunque National Forest. The plant measures no more than 4 centimeters long with a single leaf and three to seven slender stems.

Since the species was listed, tighter laws and forest management practices have resulted in stable growth rates and a reduction or elimination of threats from habitat destruction and modification due to forest management practices.

The Service uses the best available science to make Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing determinations. Under the ESA, endangered species are those that are at imminent risk of becoming extinct, while threatened species are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.

The Service has prepared a Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan (PDM) to monitor the status of the species for a minimum period of five years if it is delisted. The PDM would inform the Service of any drops in population size or emergence of threats to the orchid’s viability.

A proposed rule for delisting Lepanthes eltoroensis will be published in the Federal Register on March 10, 2020. The proposed rule, as well as a copy of the draft post-delisting monitoring plan, are available online at regulations.gov under Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2019–0073.

The Service is accepting public comments on this proposed delisting from March 10, 2020 to May 11, 2020.

You may submit comments on this proposed rule and draft post-delisting monitoring plan by one of the following methods:

  • Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. In the Search box, enter the Docket Number for this proposed rule, which is FWS–R4–ES–2019–0073. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment now!”. Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.
  • By hard copy: By U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2019–0073; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters, MS BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

We request that you send comments only by the methods described above. We will post all comments on regulations.gov. This generally means we will post any personal information you provide.

Contact

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

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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