Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 5, 2017

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Endangered Species Act Successes Continue: Bat, Cactus, Buckwheat All Found to Have Recovered

More Species Recovered Under Obama Administration Than All Others Combined

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to remove the lesser long-nosed bat and gypsum wild buckwheat from the list of endangered species and to downlist the Kuenzler hedgehog cactus from endangered to threatened, reflecting full recovery of the first two species and significant progress with the third.

So far 32 species have fully or partially recovered under the Obama administration, while another 12 have been proposed as recovered. This means more species were declared recover under President Obama than in all past administrations combined, since President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law in 1973.

“The recovery of this amazing flying mammal and these two tenacious plants, along with many other species that recovered over the past eight years, shows the Endangered Species Act is working,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Claims by politicians like Rep. Rob Bishop and my own congressman, Steve Pearce of New Mexico, that the Act is failing just don't pass the laugh test. The Act has saved more than 99 percent of the creatures and plants placed under its care from extinction. And it's put hundreds more, including the three graduating today, on the road to recovery.”    

The bat, buckwheat and cactus all live in the Southwest, a hotspot of biodiversity and a locus for habitat protection and other measures undertaken under the Endangered Species Act for a host of species. Among these measures, several lesser long-nosed bat maternal colonies in southern Arizona and New Mexico were gated to prevent human disturbance of the springtime homes of thousands of bats, including newborns. In addition, the plants that the bats feed on before migrating to central and southern Mexico were given relief from intensive livestock grazing.

Likewise, some of the gravelly soils and rocky outcrops in southeastern New Mexico that provide habitat for Kuenzler hedgehog cactus were also protected, as were almost-barren gypsum soils nearby that support the gypsum wild buckwheat.

Last year marked a milestone in recovery of endangered species through the Endangered Species Act, with more animal and plant species partially or fully recovered than in any previous year. Eleven species were found to have recovered in 2016, including a Texas plant; four subspecies of island foxes from the Channel Islands; two humpback whale populations; Kentucky's white-haired goldenrod; Santa Cruz cypress; and Columbian white-tailed deer. Four species were proposed for downlisting or delisting, including black-capped vireos, Yellowstone grizzly bears, Florida manatees and Texas' Tobusch fishhook cactus. This year alone, in addition to the bat, cactus and buckwheat, a California plant, the Hidden Lake bluecurls, was also found to be recovered and proposed for delisting.

“The Endangered Species Act helps keep the wonders of nature alive,” said Robinson. “Few among us will admire the gypsum wild buckwheat in bloom or prick careless fingers on the spines of the Kuenzler hedgehog cactus, but anyone visiting our local deserts might see a plant that was pollinated by the lesser long-nosed bat — showing that Nixon's farsighted law still conserves entire ecosystems, as he and members of Congress from both political parties intended in the early 1970s.”

Lesser long-nosed bats roost in colonies consisting of thousands of animals —  sometimes even more than 100,000. They forage on nectar, pollen and fruit. The bats mate in central and southern Mexico, where one population stays year-round; a second population migrates hundreds of miles to give birth in northern Mexico and southern Arizona and New Mexico.

The small Kuenzler hedgehog cactus and the gypsum wild buckwheat both live in specialized habitats in southeastern New Mexico. The cactus grows on sandy gravel and rocky outcrops amidst grasslands and woodlands and the buckwheat grows on near-barren gypsum soils. The cactus puts forth large magenta flowers in the springtime that offset its chalky-white, contorted spines, while the buckwheat has yellow flowers and dark green leaves.

The Kuenzler hedgehog cactus and gypsum wild buckwheat were placed on the endangered species list in 1979, and the lesser long-nosed bat in 1988. Their respective trajectories toward recovery, decades after their listings, are consistent with research showing that long timelines in species recovery plans are realistic and ultimately lead to positive population trends and outcomes.

Lesser long-nosed bat
Lesser long-nosed bat courtesy USFWS. Photos are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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