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HomeNewsArchivesIsland's Flowering Shrub Still Not Given a Place on Endangered List

Island's Flowering Shrub Still Not Given a Place on Endangered List

Lack of funding coupled with a list of higher priority species are keeping Solanum conocarpum, also called Marrón bacora, off the federal Endangered Species List, the Center for Biological Diversity said Friday.

The thornless flowering shrub exists only on St. John, where the Center said fewer than 400 plants are known to exist. Lilibeth Serrano, a public affairs specialist at the federal Department of Fish and Wildlife in Puerto Rico, and V.I. National Park Chief of Resource Management Rafe Boulon both put the number at around 200.

Only eight populations of this species are known. Serrano said two are on private lands and six in the park.

However, there is some hope for the species even if federal Fish and Wildlife isn’t taking action right now.

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Solanum is mostly on National Park Service land,” Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management at V.I. National Park, said Friday.

Its location on park land gives it some protection, but Boulon said listing it as an Endangered Species would provide even more.

“It’s definitely a species in need of conservation efforts,” he said.

Boulon put the amount on park land at about 90 percent of the total.

Serrano said that while federal Fish and Wildlife is not listing the species at this time, it now has candidate status. She said that candidate status comes after consideration of the species as an Endangered Species.

“It’s a legal term,” she said.

Putting Solanum conocarpum on the candidate list allows federal Fish and Wildlife to accomplish more with conservation agreements that provide regulatory assurances to landowners and others taking actions to help this plant, Edwin Muniz, field Supervisor for federal Fish and Wildlife’s Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, said Friday in a press release.

The Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the park, and private landowners are currently working with this species Solanum conocarpum has been propagated by experts in St. John, horticulturists at the St. George Village Botanical Garden in St. Croix, and at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, Florida, Serrano said.
Boulon said scientists are puzzled as to why the plant makes seeds but none grow from the seeds that drop to the ground. He suggested that perhaps goats, donkeys, deer, or land crabs are eating the seeds.

In an effort to solve this mystery, Serrano said federal Fish and Wildlife is considering putting a fence around an area where Solanum conocarpum grow or adopting some other measure.

“We have a willingness and interest in developing that kind of partnership,” she said.

Planning’s Fish and Wildlife Division first asked federal Fish and Wildlife to protect Solanum conocarpum in 1996. In 1998, federal Fish and Wildlife determined that the petition presented substantial scientific information to support listing and committed to issuing a final finding within nine months on whether the species should be listed. Nine months turned into six years and in 2004 the Center filed a lawsuit, resulting in a settlement agreement requiring federal Fish and Wildlife to submit a final finding in 2006. Federal Fish and Wildlife then changed its position, disregarded the opinions of its own experts, and published a finding in 2006 that neither Solanum conocarpum nor another species found on St. Croix, Agave eggersiana, should be listed. The Center again filed suit in 2008 challenging this, resulting in a settlement agreement for the Service to revisit its finding.

Federal Fish and Wildlife turned down the request to list Agave eggersiana in September 2010.

“The Obama government has made a habit of invoking this warranted-but-precluded finding, which threatens to write the final chapter on not just this island plant but 253 other species languishing in bureaucratic limbo,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Center staff attorney.

“This is the second Virgin Islands plant in less than six months that the Service has decided warrants protection but will not get it.”

Since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has made 18 such “warranted by precluded” findings, compared to the Bush administration’s total of 10, the Center said in a press release.

The press release indicates that federal Fish and Wildlife claims that despite its duty under the Endangered Species Act to list and protect imperiled species, it is hamstrung by an annual congressional appropriations process that limits the available resources for listing actions. However, the budget for listing has nearly quadrupled since 2002, with little increase in actual listing.

“Secretary Salazar’s failure to prioritize protection of endangered species is placing hundreds of species at risk of extinction,” said Lopez, referring to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

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Lack of funding coupled with a list of higher priority species are keeping Solanum conocarpum, also called Marrón bacora, off the federal Endangered Species List, the Center for Biological Diversity said Friday.

The thornless flowering shrub exists only on St. John, where the Center said fewer than 400 plants are known to exist. Lilibeth Serrano, a public affairs specialist at the federal Department of Fish and Wildlife in Puerto Rico, and V.I. National Park Chief of Resource Management Rafe Boulon both put the number at around 200.

Only eight populations of this species are known. Serrano said two are on private lands and six in the park.

However, there is some hope for the species even if federal Fish and Wildlife isn’t taking action right now.

Solanum is mostly on National Park Service land,” Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management at V.I. National Park, said Friday.

Its location on park land gives it some protection, but Boulon said listing it as an Endangered Species would provide even more.

“It’s definitely a species in need of conservation efforts,” he said.

Boulon put the amount on park land at about 90 percent of the total.

Serrano said that while federal Fish and Wildlife is not listing the species at this time, it now has candidate status. She said that candidate status comes after consideration of the species as an Endangered Species.

“It’s a legal term,” she said.

Putting Solanum conocarpum on the candidate list allows federal Fish and Wildlife to accomplish more with conservation agreements that provide regulatory assurances to landowners and others taking actions to help this plant, Edwin Muniz, field Supervisor for federal Fish and Wildlife’s Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, said Friday in a press release.

The Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the park, and private landowners are currently working with this species Solanum conocarpum has been propagated by experts in St. John, horticulturists at the St. George Village Botanical Garden in St. Croix, and at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, Florida, Serrano said.
Boulon said scientists are puzzled as to why the plant makes seeds but none grow from the seeds that drop to the ground. He suggested that perhaps goats, donkeys, deer, or land crabs are eating the seeds.

In an effort to solve this mystery, Serrano said federal Fish and Wildlife is considering putting a fence around an area where Solanum conocarpum grow or adopting some other measure.

“We have a willingness and interest in developing that kind of partnership,” she said.

Planning’s Fish and Wildlife Division first asked federal Fish and Wildlife to protect Solanum conocarpum in 1996. In 1998, federal Fish and Wildlife determined that the petition presented substantial scientific information to support listing and committed to issuing a final finding within nine months on whether the species should be listed. Nine months turned into six years and in 2004 the Center filed a lawsuit, resulting in a settlement agreement requiring federal Fish and Wildlife to submit a final finding in 2006. Federal Fish and Wildlife then changed its position, disregarded the opinions of its own experts, and published a finding in 2006 that neither Solanum conocarpum nor another species found on St. Croix, Agave eggersiana, should be listed. The Center again filed suit in 2008 challenging this, resulting in a settlement agreement for the Service to revisit its finding.

Federal Fish and Wildlife turned down the request to list Agave eggersiana in September 2010.

“The Obama government has made a habit of invoking this warranted-but-precluded finding, which threatens to write the final chapter on not just this island plant but 253 other species languishing in bureaucratic limbo,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Center staff attorney.

“This is the second Virgin Islands plant in less than six months that the Service has decided warrants protection but will not get it.”

Since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has made 18 such “warranted by precluded” findings, compared to the Bush administration’s total of 10, the Center said in a press release.

The press release indicates that federal Fish and Wildlife claims that despite its duty under the Endangered Species Act to list and protect imperiled species, it is hamstrung by an annual congressional appropriations process that limits the available resources for listing actions. However, the budget for listing has nearly quadrupled since 2002, with little increase in actual listing.

“Secretary Salazar’s failure to prioritize protection of endangered species is placing hundreds of species at risk of extinction,” said Lopez, referring to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.