Nearly 11,000 Acres of Critical Habitat Protected for South Florida Plant

For Immediate Release

Nearly 11,000 Acres of Critical Habitat Protected for South Florida Plant

Cape Sable Thoroughwort Gets Reprieve From Sea-level Rise

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - In accordance with a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today finalized designation of 10,968 acres of protected critical habitat for the Cape Sable thoroughwort, a rare plant found only in South Florida and threatened by habitat destruction. Even with today’s designation, however, the thoroughwort is likely to continue to be severely threatened by sea-level rise unless global emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced.

“This habitat protection will give the plant a fighting chance at surviving sea-level rise,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida-based Center attorney. “The quality and quantity of the habitat will buy the plant time as the surrounding landscape changes or is lost to the sea.”

The plant once occurred in Monroe County and along Florida Bay in Everglades National Park. Now no more than a few thousand plants survive on the park’s southern tip and on a handful of Keys. More than 10,000 acres of habitat, on mostly federal and state land, will be protected in Everglades National Park, Key Largo, Upper Matecumbe Key, Lignumvitae Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Long Key, Big Pine Key, Big Munson Island and Boca Grande Key.

If worst-case sea-level rise projections become a reality, much of the plant’s habitat will be inundated. To combat that threat, the Fish and Wildlife Service designated upland unoccupied habitat. But in order to survive, the plant will likely need to be reintroduced to suitable higher-elevation sites outside its historical range, and scientists predict that it will likely evade extinction only if emissions are reduced and the worst sea-level rise predictions are not realized.

The decision is part of a historic settlement agreement signed with the Center for Biological Diversity that requires expedited decisions on protection for 757 species around the country and has to date resulted in endangered species protections for more than 100 species.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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