U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Lists Three Species In Texas And New Mexico As Threatened Or Endangered

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently listed (pdf) the Jemez Mountains salamander (Piethodon neomexicanus) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service also recently published (pdf) a final rule listing the Texas golden gladecress (Leavenworthia texana) as endangered and the Neches River rose-mallow (Hibiscus dasycalyx) as threatened under the ESA.

The Jemez Mountains salamander is found only in the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico, in Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, and Sandoval Counties. The salamander is generally found around the rim of the collapsed Valles Caldera (a large volcanic crater), or in some instances in the interior of the caldera. The principal threats to the Jemez Mountains salamander include historical fire prevention and suppression, forest composition and structure conversions, post-fire rehabilitation, habitat fragmentation, and recreation. The Service announced that it will publish a final rule designating critical habitat for the salamander in the future.

The Texas golden gladecress is a small, annual, herbaceous plant belonging to the mustard family. It is principally found in east Texas, in San Augustine and Sabine Counties. The principle threats to the species include, in some cases, a total loss of habitat and plants, and in others, a degradation of the herbaceous glade plant communities supporting the species. The Service has determined that these threats are likely to be exacerbated by climate change. Activities or factors that continue to negatively impact the species’ habitat include quarrying, natural gas and oil exploration, invasion of open glades by nonnative species, pine tree plantings in close proximity to occupied glades, herbicide applications that kill emerging seedlings, and the installation of service improvements, including water and sewer lines, domestic gas lines, or electric lines.

The Neches River rose-mallow is similarly found in east Texas. Its principle threats include habitat loss and degradation of open habitats in the Neches, Sabine, and Angelina River basins and Mudd Creek and Tantabogue Creek basins that support the species. The rose-mallow’s habitat is being lost and degraded by encroachment of nonnative and native plant species, herbicide use, livestock, and alteration of the natural hydrology associated with seasonal flooding.

Due to the threat of habitat loss or degradation, the Service has also published (pdf) a final rule designating approximately 1,353 acres of critical habitat for the Texas golden gladecress in Sabine and San Augustine Counties, and approximately 166.5 acres of critical habitat for the Neches River rose-mallow in Nacogdoches, Houston, Trinity, Cherokee, and Harrison Counties. The Service’s critical habitat designation has created controversy in the seven affected counties, where opponents have stated they plan to fight the designation in court.