U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Denies Listing For Rare Orchid

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced (pdf) the completion of its status review (pdf) of Coleman’s coralroot (Hexalectris colemanii), a species of orchid found in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. The Service determined that listing the orchid as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is not warranted at this time.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the Service to protect Coleman’s coralroot under the ESA in September 2010. Originally thought to be part of the Chisos coralroot, the Service recognized Coleman’s coralroot as a separate species in 2011. At that time, the species was thought to occur only in three sites in the Santa Rita and Dragoon Mountains of southern Arizona. However, as of July 2013, the species has been identified in 22 colonies across seven mountain ranges in Arizona and New Mexico.

Mining, livestock grazing, nonnative invasive plant species, wildfire, drought, and climate change were all identified by CBD as potential threats to the habitat or range of Coleman’s coralroot. The threat due to mining was of particular concern because it is a significant component of the history and economy of the southwest, including southeastern Arizona. After assessing the best available science on the magnitude and extent of these threats, the Service determined that the destruction, modification, and curtailment of the species’ habitat or range are not a threat to the species. The Service determined that, while mining operations may affect a small percentage of the species’ habitat, it and other potential threats have not resulted in measurable population declines