For Immediate Release,
August 25, 2020
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed listing the marrón bacora, a plant native to the Virgin Islands, as endangered and identified 2,549 acres of potential critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
Marrón bacora is a flowering shrub found only in dry forests on St. John’s, Virgin Islands. The plant is threatened by sprawl development and the climate crisis.
“This magnificent plant, once thought to be extinct, has a fighting chance at survival now,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center. “Endangered Species Act protection will help this Virgin Islands beauty not just survive, but thrive.”
Today’s proposal springs from Center litigation that resulted in a binding commitment by the Service to determine whether protections should be provided. The agency published a positive 12-month finding for the marrón bacora in 2011, but found that even though federal protections were warranted, they were precluded due to other priorities. The plant was then put on a waiting list.
Marrón bacora, formally known only by its Latin name Solanum conocarpum, can reach 10 feet in height. It was believed extinct, then rediscovered in 1992. The plant was first petitioned for listing in 1996 and after more than a dozen years of stalling, and two Center lawsuits, the Service in 2009 finally set a timeline for protecting the plant. Unfortunately, that resulted in a finding that the agency would indefinitely postpone protection, which forced the Center to go back to court again and resulted in today’s proposed listing decision.
St. John’s was devastated in 2017 by hurricanes Irma and Maria. The proposed listing rule found that the climate crisis is predicted to increase tropical storm frequency and intensity and cause severe droughts. The proposed rule also found that the plant’s habitat is vulnerable to modification due to urban development.