For Immediate Release, July 31, 2014

Contact: Tierra Curry, (928)-522-3681

Three Southeast Flowers Protected Under Endangered Species Act 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 protected three flowers under the Endangered Species Act. Short’s bladderpod, fleshy-fruit gladecress and whorled sunflowers are found in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. The Center petitioned the Service to protect the plants in 2004. They have been on a waiting list of species known to be in need of federal protection since 1999.

“The Endangered Species Act has been 99 percent successful at preventing the extinction of the plants and animals under its care, and I’m so pleased that these beautiful southeastern flowers have finally gained the protection that will make sure they’re around for generations to come,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center.

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 foot-tall flower in the mustard family, with orange, yellow or white flowers. It survives at only seven 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.

Last year the agency proposed 2,488 acres of protected “critical” habitat for the flowers. Today’s final listing says that the agency expects to finalize the habitat protection in the near future. 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. 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.

In 2011 the Center and the Service reached a landmark agreement that will ensure all the species that were on the federal waiting list for protection as of 2010 will get protection decisions by 2018. So far under that agreement, 124 species have gained Endangered Species Act protection, including the three flowers, and another 19 have been proposed for protection.

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

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.

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