Spiranthes parksii (Navasota ladies'tresses) news story

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Aug 18, 2011
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Washington DC, USA
(I wonder if there are hybrids of Spiranthes parksii x S. odorata?)

Property rights group asks FWS to delist Texas orchid
Dylan Brown, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, May 28, 2015
A Texas property rights group petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service today for the removal of an orchid from the endangered species list.

The American Stewards of Liberty is calling for the delisting of the Navasota ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes parksii), a flower named for cascading rows of small white flowers that's native to Central and East Texas near the city of Navasota.

The filing is part of a "comprehensive delisting campaign" launched by the Austin, Texas-based nonprofit to counter the broad push by environmentalists to force the federal government to make more timely decisions on extending Endangered Species Act protection to plants and animals.

The orchid was never at risk of extinction, even when it petitioned for listing in 1982, according to American Stewards, which has also submitted documents demanding the delisting of the Hualapai vole and Bone Cave harvestman, a Central Texas cave invertebrate.

According to the group, the handful of orchids originally found at the two sites have become more than 3,650 across a dozen counties today -- a more than 18,000 percent population growth and a 4,000 percent increase in range that includes more than 24 protected habitats totaling more than 400 acres.

"The Navasota ladies'-tresses is a plant that is thriving across much of Central and East Texas that does not belong on the endangered species list," said Margaret Byfield, executive director of American Stewards of Liberty.

She said her group "was formed to protect owners, including citizens and local governments, from federal overreach, and our goal with this effort is to cause the federal government to take a fresh look at the status of this species and remove it from the endangered species list."

The group also took a broad swipe at the Endangered Species Act, homing in on the fact that of the 2,222 species listed since 1973, only 59 have made it off the list. Of the species delisted, 30 have recovered, 10 have gone extinct and 19 were removed after it was found that original determinations were based on bad data.

In a joint news release, SWCA Environmental Consultants, another Texas-based group that advises local and state governments, stressed the Navasota ladies'-tresses is incorrectly listed.

"In such cases, the 'best available science' may have been misapplied, and a fresh look at the status of the species is warranted to ensure that only those species truly in need of protection remain on the list," said Steven Carothers, SWCA's founder.

The joint news release blasted the role third parties play in dictating the Fish and Wildlife Service's priorities, blaming environmental activists for "abusing" the listing process in a way "threatening private property rights across the country."

Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at one of the most active environmental groups on the issue, the Center for Biological Diversity, dismissed the petition as "just property rights hogwash."

He said his group supports delisting when appropriate, noting its support for lifting protections for Louisiana black bears, but the American Stewards of Liberty and SWCA Environmental Consultants petition just doesn't hold water.

"In this case, Fish and Wildlife reviewed the species in 2009 and concluded that it should stay endangered," Greenwald said.

Federal officials tallied population numbers roughly similar to American Stewards of Liberty's and SWCA Environmental Consultants' findings, but that doesn't mean the species is out of the woods yet, Greenwald said.

He noted a series of what he called "misleading" statistics. The petitioners' population and growth rate claims were greatly exaggerated, he said, as federal officials identified 1,800 individual orchids just a year after the species was listed.

Also, he said Carothers incorrectly stated that the species was listed as the result of a petition. It was in fact identified as requiring protection by the Smithsonian Institution.

For Greenwald, the petition is a thinly veiled attack on the Endangered Species Act.

Thank you for bringing this up, Linus. I didn't know much about this species, but it seems to be quite interesting (and hot topic in conservation biology). There appear to be some papers showing that they are not so genetically distinct from S. cernua. But a larger scale study seems to be desired.
Ah, the showdown on the environment is going to come to head VERY soon - this is just one small episode. In Asia everyone would just shrug their shoulders about such a diminutive plant, develop the land 'til the bitter end and put them in their salads and stir-fry :rollhappy: (and no, I"m not being rascist, that's simply the truth).

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