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A green plant with bunches bright white flowers
Information icon Cumberland sandwort. Photo by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Service proposes delisting the Cumberland sandwort

Endangered Species Act-inspired partnerships help ensure rare plant no longer faces threat of extinction

Found only in a small portion of the Cumberland Plateau in northern Tennessee and southern Kentucky, the Cumberland sandwort was headed toward extinction before it was listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1988. That’s when the states of Tennessee and Kentucky, federal agencies and conservation groups stepped in to protect and restore this unique plant.

Thanks to these ESA-inspired partnerships, Cumberland sandwort populations are now healthy, robust and stable, and a scientifically rigorous review of the best available science has determined the species no longer faces the threat of extinction. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist the sandwort under the ESA and is making available a draft post-delisting monitoring plan (PDM) to help ensure it remains healthy and secure after it is delisted.

The proposal follows more than 30 years of conservation partnerships between the Service and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Kentucky Nature Preserves, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service

“Partnerships are the key to the success of the Endangered Species Act,” said Leo Miranda, the Service’s Regional Director. “The National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and states of Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as the Missouri Botanical Garden, all played important roles in bringing back and sustaining this delicate flower. Future generations will be grateful that it is around for them to enjoy.”

Land protection and habitat management have been vital to protecting and recovering the sandwort. This plant was originally listed due to overuse or destruction of habitat from recreational activities. To address these threats, partners installed signs, fencing and boardwalks that educate visitors about public lands and protect the plant.

The sandwort is found in 66 places on federal and state conservation lands that are individually managed by the National Park Service, Tennessee Division of Forestry, Tennessee Division of Natural Areas, or Tennessee State Parks. Pickett State Forest, owned by the Tennessee Division of Forestry, has 29 occurrences alone.

Other conservation partners include the Missouri Botanical Garden, which collected Cumberland sandwort seeds over many years to maintain seed viability in storage. Tennessee, Kentucky and the National Park Service have monitored the species status in known locations and conducted surveys to record previously unknown occurrences.

Download the 2013 status review for the Cumberland sandwort.

While the Service recommended downlisting the sandwort from endangered to threatened in this document, new information indicated threats had been further reduced and new populations discovered, supporting this proposed delisting.

The Service also is announcing the availability of a draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan for the sandwort, which will to help ensure the sandwort remains healthy and secure from the risk of extinction after it is delisted. We seek information, data and comments from the public regarding this proposal to delist this species and on the draft PDM plan.

We will accept comments received or postmarked on or before June 26, 2020. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal (see ADDRESSES, below) must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown below by June 11, 2020.

You may submit comments on this proposed rule by one of the following methods:

  1. Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. In the Search box, enter FWS–R4–ES–2019–0080, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”
  2. By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2019–0080; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 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 that we will post any personal information you provide us (see Public Comments, below, for more information).

Document availability

The proposed rule, draft PDM plan and supporting documents, references cited, five-year review are available at regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS-R4-ES-2019-0080.

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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