A rare plant that relies on wetlands for its survival is now on the federal endangered species list, a designation that environmentalists say will boost efforts to protect the desert Southwest’s last free-flowing river.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service published Friday in the federal registry the decision to list the Arizona eryngo as endangered and set aside nearly 13 acres (5 hectares) in southern Arizona as critical habitat.
The decision comes years after environmentalists filed a petition and then sued to get protection for the plant, which has cream-colored, spherical flowerheads. Only two populations are known in Arizona – near Tucson and in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
The Eryngo grows in Ciénegas, a type of wetland fed by natural springs that come from the deep aquifer that feeds the San Pedro River. The plant’s habitat and the course of the San Pedro River are threatened by groundwater overpumping in the region, climate change and drought.
“This gives us a new way of protecting it,” said Robin Silver of the Center for Biological Diversity of the river. “Protecting plants protects the aquifer itself.”
The plant is also found in the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. It historically grew in southwest New Mexico in Las Playas Springs, but hasn’t been documented there since 1851, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
Arizona’s critical habitat is in Pima and Cochise counties and includes no other location where efforts to reintroduce the eryngo have failed. The agency said development can still occur in the areas, but anything that relies on federal funding or federal permits must be analyzed to ensure it won’t impact the Eryngo’s habitat.
“Partnerships will be central to addressing the threats facing the Arizona Eryngo and putting it on the path to recovery,” said Amy Lueders, the Southwest regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, in a statement.
The agency did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press on Friday afternoon.
The Arizona eryngo belongs to the carrot family and can reach more than 1.5 meters in height. It relies on pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds to reproduce. Conservation efforts are underway to establish more populations of the Eryngo.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/10/rare-wetland-plant-found-in-arizona-now-listed-as-endangered/ Rare wetland plant found in Arizona and now listed as Vulnerable