Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, September 28, 2020


Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Rare Flower in New Mexico’s High Desert Proposed for Federal Protection

Wright’s Marsh Thistle Has Already Vanished From Arizona, Mexico

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed today to protect Wright’s marsh thistle, an imperiled wetland plant in New Mexico, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and to designate 159 acres as protected critical habitat.

Under a workplan developed in 2016, the Service promised to propose listing for the marsh thistle in 2017 but failed to do so. In 2019 the Center for Biological Diversity formally notified the agency of its intent to sue over delayed protection for the plant and hundreds of other species.

“This New Mexico plant loves boggy soils, but our precious seeps and springs are drying up due to climate change and reckless uses of land and water,” said Michael Robinson at the Center. “With protection, the Wright’s marsh thistle will benefit from a science-based recovery plan, and its remaining habitat on public lands will be off limits to commercial exploitation. Future generations will be glad for the preservation of the springs that give life to this unique thistle.”

The Wright’s marsh thistle requires water-saturated and alkaline soils, full sunlight and a nearby diversity of other plants to also attract pollinators to the thistle itself.

The marsh thistle used to be found in southern Arizona and Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico, but is now found only in eight widely separated locales in southern New Mexico, down from 10 locations originally found in the state. One of those two recently lost populations dried up, and the wetland supporting the other was converted into a golf course.

The marsh thistle’s persistence in its surviving locales is threatened by cattle trampling and grazing, non-native plants as well as unnaturally prolific native plants that shade out the thistle, oil and gas spills from drilling, mineral mining, municipal and agricultural depletion of groundwater, and drought.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protecting 159 acres total in Chaves, Eddy, Guadalupe, Otero and Socorro counties. Federal agencies are not allowed to destroy or harm designated critical habitat, as for example through permitting the grazing of livestock, mining or water withdrawals on public lands on which the thistle depends.

“This prickly plant depends on lifegiving springs in the midst of an arid landscape, just as people depend on those beautiful springs to bring life to the desert and buoy our spirits in a dry land,” said Robinson. “The Endangered Species Act can help save the dwindling water the marsh thistle needs to survive.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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