For Immediate Release, September 11, 2014
Contact: Tierra Curry, (928) 522-3681
Rare Flower in Georgia, Alabama Gains Endangered Species Act Protection
732 Acres of River Habitat
ATLANTA— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected a flower in Georgia and Alabama as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act today and designated 732 acres of river bluff as “critical habitat” to protect the plant. The decision to protect Georgia rockcress results from a landmark 2011 settlement with the Center for Biological Diversity to speed protection decisions on 757 imperiled plants and animals across the country.
“After it spent 39 years on a waiting list, I’m excited Georgia rockcress finally has the protection it needs to survive,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center. “The Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plants and animals under its care, and will ensure that this beautiful white flower is safeguarded for generations to come.”
The rockcress is a 3-foot-tall flower that grows on steep river bluffs. It was first identified as being in need of federal protection in 1975 and was designated as a candidate for protection in 1980. The Center petitioned for the plant’s protection in 2004.
The proposed critical habitat is located in Gordon, Floyd, Harris, Muscogee and Clay counties in Georgia, and in Bibb, Dallas, Elmore, Monroe, Sumter and Wilcox counties in Alabama. The critical habitat designation for the plant will require federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before funding or permitting projects that could harm its habitat.
There are fewer than 18 surviving populations of rockcress, all of which are small and threatened. Forces that imperil the flower include habitat degradation from development, logging, quarrying, camping, invasive species and hydropower dams. The flower only grows beneath mixed hardwood trees in areas with exposed rock outcroppings that allow for both sun and shade.
In 2011 the Center and the Fish and Wildlife Service reached a settlement to speed protections for all the species on the candidate waiting list as of 2010, as well as a host of other species previously petitioned for protection. To date 137 plants and animals have received protection as a result of the Center’s 2011 agreement, and another six have been proposed for protection.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is making great progress in addressing the backlog of plants and animals facing extinction,” said Curry. “Now Congress needs to designate sufficient funding for recovery to make sure these endangered species get what they need to thrive.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.