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Rare Arizona Cacti Receive Much-Needed Endangered Species Act Protections

Acuņa cactus and Fickeisen plains cactus imperiled by prolonged drought, climate change

Washington, DC – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that the acuña cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus acunensis) and Fickeisen plains cactus (Pediocactus peeblesianus fickeiseniae) will be listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These Arizona cacti have languished as candidates for listing for more than 30 years. The Service identified drought, climate change, vehicle and foot traffic, and predation by insects as primary threats to the species. 

“We’re thrilled these two amazing species are finally getting the protection they need to survive and thrive,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Cacti are tough plants, but they need our help in the face of unprecedented threats.”

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, one of the last remaining strongholds of acuña cactus habitat, is a major travel corridor for immigration and smuggling, and routes change constantly within the Monument, making it difficult to predict the effects of both foot traffic and off-road law enforcement vehicle traffic on the cactus. The stress of prolonged drought, combined with predation, mainly by insects and small mammals, is likely responsible for much of the cactus’ population decline.

The Fickeisen plains cactus is scattered across deserts and grasslands on the Colorado Plateau in the Coconino and Mohave counties of northern Arizona. Livestock grazing, long-term drought, and predation by rodents and rabbits threaten cactus populations. The worsening effects of climate change, particularly warmer winters, compound all of these threats.

The acuña cactus and Fickeisen plains cactus are among the 252 candidate species covered by WildEarth Guardians’ settlement agreement with the Service addressing the backlog of species awaiting listing decisions. The agreement obligates the agency to either list as threatened or endangered or find “not warranted” for protection all 252 candidate species by September 2016.   “Today’s cacti listings represent the latest positive step in addressing those species that have long awaited ESA protections,” said Jones. “We are glad to see the settlement is working – species like the cacti that face serious threats are finally receiving the protections they need to survive and recover.”


 

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