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Texas Golden Gladecress, Neches River Rose-mallow Threatened by Habitat Loss, Small Populations
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has proposed to list two Texas plants, the Texas golden gladecress (Leavenworthia texana) as “endangered” and the Neches River rose-mallow (Hibiscus dasycalyx) as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and to designate critical habitat for both species. The gladecress and rose-mallow were first identified as candidates for listing in 1990 and 1980, respectively. Both species are included in WildEarth Guardians landmark species settlement agreement under which the Service has agreed to consider 252 candidate species for listing by 2016.
“The settlement agreement is working and we are glad these two flowers are still around to finally receive protection,” said Mark Salvo, Wildlife Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.
The Texas golden gladecress is a mustard with petite golden yellow flowers and dark green, succulent stems and leaves. The plant grows in the Weches outcrops in east Texas. Although relatively small and surrounded by oak-hickory-pine forests, Weches outcrops support highly diverse plant communities, including rare and endemic species that specialize in these unique environments.
The Neches River rose-mallow is a shrubby perennial that grows 3-7 feet tall. The flower, named after the Neches River, grows in wetland areas exposed to open sun. Occupied sites typically hold standing water for much of the growing season and are generally within the immediate floodplains of rivers, or adjacent to ponds, sloughs, and oxbows. Like other Hibiscus, the Neches River rose-mallow produces large, showy flowers. Each blossom is 3 to 6 inches wide with five 2-to-4-inch-long creamy-white petals and a deep red or purple center.
The Service found the gladecress is threatened by habitat loss from glauconite quarrying; natural gas and oil exploration and production; invasion of open glades by nonnative and native shrubs, trees, and vines, and other weedy species; pine tree plantings in close proximity to occupied glades; and herbicide applications that have potential to kill emerging seedlings. The rose-mallow is threatened by encroachment of nonnative and native plant species, particularly trees, herbicide use, livestock trampling, and alteration of natural hydrology of seasonal flooding to conditions where habitat has been drained or has become permanently flooded. Both species are also threatened by their small populations, a lack of regulatory mechanisms to protect their remaining habitat, and drought.
The Service has proposed to designate a total of 1353 acres of critical habitat for the gladecress in Sabine and San Augustine counties, most of which is on private land. The agency has also proposed to designate 187.8 acres of critical habitat for the rose-mallow in Cherokee, Houston Trinity, Harrison and Nacogdoches counties. It is comprised of eleven areas of mixed ownership along sloughs, oxbows, terraces, and sand bars in the Neches River basin and Mud and Tantabogue Creek basins.
The gladecress and rose-mallow are two of 252 candidate species covered in WildEarth Guardians’ settlement agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service, announced on May 10, 2011, and approved by a federal court on September 9, 2011. The agreement obligates the agency to make final listing determinations for all 252 candidate species by September 2016. The settlement resolved 12 lawsuits that Guardians filed challenging the government’s failure to timely list species under the act, and attempts to fix a listing program that has failed to function properly since the Reagan Administration. It also schedules petition findings, 12-month listing determinations, and critical habitat designations for more than 600 additional species. In return, WildEarth Guardians consented to dismiss its lawsuits and will refrain from suing Interior over missed listing deadlines for the next six years. The Service met all of its obligations under the agreement for FY 2011, taking action on 730 species.