For Immediate Release, June 15, 2022

Contact:

Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org

Virgin Islands Flower Finally Gets Endangered Species Protections After 47 Years

Marrón Bacora Threatened by Development, Hurricanes, Exotic Mammals

BOQUERÓN, Puerto Rico— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today protected the marrón bacora as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and designated 2,548 acres as critical habitat. Marrón bacora is a 10-foot-tall flowering shrub that has been reduced to just seven fragmented populations on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, and one population on Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

“I’m thrilled this gorgeous plant is finally protected, but five decades is far too long to wait,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The clear scientific evidence should have made it an easy decision to protect the marrón bacora, but cumbersome bureaucracy and political interference at the Fish and Wildlife Service delayed protections. These problems have to be addressed. The Service should be the strongest advocate fighting against extinction, but it seems far too concerned with avoiding controversy and preserving bureaucratic fiefdoms.”

The Smithsonian Institute first identified the marrón bacora as needing protection in 1975. The Service placed it on a candidate list for protection in 1980, where it sat until the Government of the Virgin Islands petitioned for its protection in 1996. Two years later, the Service made an initial positive finding on the petition, but didn’t act. The Center sued the Service in 2004 for failing to make a protections decision.

The Bush administration denied protection in 2006, leading to a second lawsuit by the Center. In 2009 the Service agreed to reconsider protection and in 2011 found that the plant warranted protection. Rather than provide that protection, the agency determined that other species took higher priority and placed the marrón bacora on a candidate list. Following even more litigation by the Center, the Service finally proposed protection last year and finalized it today.

Marrón bacora, formally known by its Latin name Solanum conocarpum, was believed to be extinct but was rediscovered in 1992. St. John island was devastated in 2017 by hurricanes Irma and Maria. The climate crisis is predicted to increase tropical storm frequency and intensity and cause severe droughts, both of which harm the plant. Urban development and exotic mammals are also immediate threats. Deer, goats, pigs and donkeys — all introduced to the islands — destroy the dry forests where the plant lives and eat its fruit, limiting reproduction.

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Marrón bacora flower. Credit: USFWS. Image is available for media use.

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.