The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday it will grant Endangered Species Act protection to four rare Florida plants found nowhere else.
Two shrubs, the Everglades bully and the Florida pineland crabgrass, as well as an herb, the pineland sandmat, are being listed as threatened. species. Another shrub, the Florida prairie-clover, is being listed as endangered.
“The risk of extinction is high for these plants, now or within the foreseeable future, because the populations are small, isolated and have limited to no potential for recolonization,” said Mike Oetker, acting regional director of the agency‘s Southeast Region office in Atlanta.
Two of the plants have been awaiting a decision from the agency since 1999 and the other two since 2004, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which also said that one of the threats all four are facing is sea level rise caused by climate change.
One of them, the Everglades bully, faces a more immediate threat: It grows on Everglades pine rocklands where the Coral Reef Commons development project is planned for construction. The Walmart-anchored development has been a target of environmentalists since it was first announced because the land is part of the last, largest intact tract of pine rockland outside Everglades National Park -- a sliver of forest that once covered about 185,000 acres between Florida City and Miami.
The listing of the plant won’t stop the development because, unlike with animals, there’s no law against harming or killing endangered plants on private property, the federal agency noted. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the developer to create something called a “habitat protection plan” that would “provide a mechanism that allows for development and minimize impacts to protected plant and animal species and the habitats they depend on.,” the agency news release said