ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.–(ENEWSPF)–October 21, 2013. Following lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Endangered Species Act protection today for three rare plants from the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Egger’s agave, island brittleleaf and Puerto Rico manjack are imminently threatened by land development and have been on a waiting list for federal protection since 1980.
“Historic land-use practices drove these species to the brink of extinction, and federal foot-dragging has allowed them to be nearly wiped off the planet,” said the Center’s Jaclyn Lopez. “The quicker the Service finalizes Endangered Species Act protection, the sooner we can start pulling these remarkable plants away from the abyss and back toward recovery.”
Egger’s agave and Puerto Rico manjack were first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1975. All three plants were put on the candidate waiting list for federal protection in 1980. In 2011 the Center and the Service reached a landmark settlement requiring final protection decisions for all the species on the candidate list by 2016.
Today’s listing proposal results from that agreement, which has already brought protection to more than 100 imperiled plants and animals across the country.
Egger’s agave (Agave eggersiana) is a stunning, robust, perennial herb native only to hillsides and plains in dry, areas of eastern St. Croix. It is slow growing and late maturing and has large, tubular flowers. It can grow up to 23 feet tall. The U.S. Virgin Islands Division of Fish and Wildlife petitioned the Service to protect the species in 1996, but it continued to languish on the candidate list until, in 2004, the Center filed a lawsuit requiring the Service to issue a decision on the plant’s protection. In 2006 the Service found that the plant did not warrant protection. The Center challenged that determination and in 2009 reached a settlement agreement with the Service for a proposed listing rule by 2010.
Island brittleleaf (Gonocalyx concolor) is a small evergreen, and Puerto Rico manjack (Varronia rupicola; =Cordia rupicola) is a large shrub; both exist only in Puerto Rico. These two plants have been candidates for listing since 1980; the Center filed a 2004 petition to the Service to get the plants protection.
The Service is expected to finalize protection for the three plants within one year.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.