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For Immediate Release, August 1, 2013

Contact:  Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681

Three Southeast Flowers Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection

2,488 Acres of Habitat to Be Protected in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn.— Following an agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed decisions on protection for 757 imperiled species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to protect three flowers under the Endangered Species Act, along with 2,488 acres of protected “critical” habitat. Short’s bladderpod, fleshy-fruit gladecress and whorled sunflowers are found in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“These three beautiful flowers have been sitting on a waiting list for protection since 1999. Endangered Species Act protection will make sure they aren’t erased forever,” said Tierra Curry, a biologist at the Center, which petitioned for federal protection for the plants in 2004.

There are only four surviving populations of whorled sunflowers, a plant threatened by industrial forestry and pine plantations. The sunflowers grow to be 6 feet tall and live in moist, prairie-like remnants, in openings in woodlands and adjacent to creeks; they’re known from Cherokee County, Ala.; Floyd County, Ga.; and McNairy and Madison counties, Tenn.

Fleshy-fruit gladecress is a 1-foot-tall flower in the mustard family, with orange, yellow or white flowers. It survives at only six sites in Lawrence and Morgan counties, Ala., where it grows in cedar glades — open, sunny areas with exposed limestone. It is threatened by livestock grazing, residential and industrial development, agriculture, off-road vehicles and dumping.

Short’s bladderpod is a yellow flower in the mustard family that grows nearly 2 feet tall and lives near rivers on steep, rocky, wooded slopes. It has been lost from nearly one-third of the sites where it once occurred and is now found at only one site in Indiana, eight sites in Kentucky and 17 sites in Tennessee. It is threatened by transportation right-of-way construction and maintenance; flooding and water-level fluctuation; overstory shading; and competition with nonnative plant species.

The critical habitat being proposed to protect the plants will require federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before funding or permitting projects that could harm that habitat. For Short’s bladderpod, 926 acres have been proposed for protection in Posey County, Ind.; Clark, Franklin and Woodford counties, Ky.; and Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Jackson, Montgomery, Smith and Trousdale counties, Tenn. For the whorled sunflower, 1,542 acres have been proposed for protection in Cherokee County, Ala.; Floyd County, Ga.; and Madison and McNairy counties, Tenn. For fleshy-fruit gladecress, 21 acres have been proposed in Lawrence and Morgan counties, Ala.

In 2011 the Center and the Service reached a landmark agreement that will ensure all the species on the federal waiting list for protection as of 2010 will get decisions within the next four years.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is making excellent progress in working through the backlog of species in dire need of federal protection. Now Congress needs to step up to the plate and designate the funding the Service desperately needs to move these endangered species toward recovery,” said Curry. 

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.

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