For Immediate Release, April 10, 2023
Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017, firstname.lastname@example.org
Texas Flower Threatened By Urban Sprawl Wins Endangered Species Act Protection
Bracted Twistflower Also Gets 2.5 Square Miles of Critical Habitat
SAN ANTONIO— Thanks to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is placing the bracted twistflower on the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The flower is in the path of expanding development along the Interstate 35 corridor of central Texas, and today’s protection comes after 48 years of delay.
The Service also designated nine areas in Uvalde, Medina, Bexar and Travis counties, totaling 1,596 acres or almost 2.5 square miles, as critical habitat for the purple-and-lavender flower.
“This long-overdue rule will be a lifesaver for this unique Texas wildflower,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Because the Endangered Species Act is so effective, it greatly increases the chance that future generations will enjoy the bracted twistflower as part of the Lone Star State’s natural beauty.”
The bracted twistflower is known from 17 places within 1.2 miles of the fault line between two geologic formations on the southeastern edge of the Edwards Plateau. The plant’s likely dependence on subsurface water and/or magnesium found within this narrow zone also coincides with human population growth in the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio. The plants are gone from two of those 17 locales, almost gone from five others, and significantly diminished elsewhere.
The Fish and Wildlife Service first identified the bracted twistflower as qualifying for federal protection in 1975. But in 1980 the agency placed the plant on an interminable waiting list instead of actually protecting it. A botanist formally petitioned for the listing in 2014, but it took a 2020 lawsuit by the Center to finally galvanize today’s action.
In addition to development, the bracted twistflower is threatened from being eaten by unnaturally high numbers of white-tailed deer as well as nonnative grazing animals, by fire suppression that leads to trees blocking out too much sun, and from the wide separation of the flowers from each other, beyond the range of pollinating bees. That leads to losses of genetic diversity among bracted twistflower populations stranded from other populations.
The listing of the bracted twistflower will lead to development of a recovery plan that will prescribe conservation actions such as reintroduction and/or construction of deer-exclusion fences, along with criteria to determine the point at which the plant would be considered recovered.
The listing provides federal penalties for violations of state or local laws that lead to harm to the plants — for example, trespass off-road vehicle use that could be shown to have trampled the plants. Critical habitat designations also prohibit federal funding or permitting of actions that would destroy or degrade the plant’s delineated most-important homes.
“It’s such a shame that it took almost half a century to give bracted twistflowers the conservation attention they need and deserve,” said Robinson. “If this attractive plant had gotten a quicker designation, it might already have been off the threatened list by now. But I’m thankful that the bracted twistflower still lures bees to its purple petals and that it’s not too late to stave off extinction and start the path to recovery.”
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.