Seven Pacific Species Gain Federal Protection

By Cat Lazaroff

PORTLAND, Oregon, January 27, 2000 (ENS) - While the Northeast United States vanished under a blanket of snow this week, the sunny Pacific states have experienced a different kind of weather - a flurry of additions to the federal Endangered Species list. The Pacific Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added seven species to the list, including a butterfly, a snail and five flowering plants.


The endangered Willamette daisy is at risk from agricultural activities, urban development, roadside maintenance and herbicide applications (Three photos courtesy City of Eugene, Oregon)
The rough popcornflower, a rare plant that occurs only in seasonal wetlands of Oregon's Umpqua Valley, was listed on Tuesday as endangered. Fewer than 7,000 individual rough popcornflower plants remain scattered among 17 small patches on 40 acres of wetland habitat. The plant was considered extinct until it was rediscovered in 1983 during intensive field surveys.

Fifteen of the 17 sites where rough popcornflower still exists are on private land, while the remaining two patches are on state land managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation. The Department set aside a special management area where changes in mowing and spraying practices help protect the species. The rough popcornflower grows one to two feet tall and has white and yellow flowers that can look like buttered popcorn.

"The rough popcorn flower is threatened by habitat loss due to urban development, spring and summer livestock grazing, competition from native and non-native plants, and roadside mowing and spraying," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regional director Anne Badgley.

Three species which occur on the last small patches of native prairie in Oregon’s Willamette Valley were also added to the list Tuesday. The Fender's blue butterfly and the Willamette daisy were listed as endangered, and the Kincaid's lupine as threatened.


The threatened Kincaid's lupine was identified during a search for another rare species, the Fender's blue butterfly
"Land survey records from the 1850's tell us native prairie covered more than a million acres in the Willamette Valley before European-American settlement," said Badgley. "During the past 140 years, an estimated 99 percent of this native prairie has been turned into farmland. Listing these three species will help us to protect the remnants of the prairie and other species that depend on it."

The Fender's blue butterfly is a small, cobalt blue butterfly that occurs in 32 small sites totaling 408 acres. Most of these populations are in decline, and 19 contain fewer than 50 individuals.

Once thought to be extinct, the Fender's blue butterfly was known only from collections made between 1929 and 1937. Despite widespread searches, lack of information on the butterfly's host plant prevented researchers from targeting a particular species of lupine preferred by the butterfly. Dr. Paul Hammond rediscovered the Fender's blue butterfly in 1989 on an uncommon species of lupine. His discovery of the butterfly allowed the rare host lupine to be identified as Kincaid's lupine.


The endangered Fender's blue butterfly lays its eggs only on the threatened Kincaid's lupine
The Willamette daisy, listed as endangered by the State of Oregon, is found primarily in wetter, low lying native prairie in the Willamette Valley. The daisy is a low growing perennial that produces pink to pale-blue ray flowers and yellow disk flowers. Historically known from locations as far north as the Portland area, the Willamette daisy has been reduced to 28 remnant populations on 286 acres.

In California, the USFWS on Wednesday listed Baker's larkspur and yellow larkspur, two native plants found only in coastal Marin and Sonoma counties, as endangered.

A perennial herb in the buttercup family, Baker's larkspur grows on decomposed shale within the coastal scrub plant community at elevations of about 400 to 500 feet. It reaches a height of about 26 inches and displays dark blue or purplish flowers from April through May. Historically, Baker's larkspur never occurred beyond coastal Marin and Sonoma counties. Biologists have found only 35 individual plants remaining, all at a single site in Marin County.

The yellow larkspur, also a perennial herb in the buttercup family, occurs at only two sites near Bodega where biologists have located fewer than 50 remaining plants. Never widely distributed, the species grows on rocky areas within the coastal scrub plant community at elevations from sea level to 300 feet. It reaches 22 inches tall and has bright yellow flowers from March to May.


Both the yellow and Baker's larkspurs favor coastal shrub (Photo courtesy California Native Plant Society)
"Loss of habitat is the prime cause of the decline of these two plants," said Mike Spear, the USFWS California-Nevada operations manager. "In addition, over collection by plant enthusiasts has taken its toll on the known populations of these species."

Newcomb’s snail, a species found only in remote waterfalls, seeps and springs of six stream systems on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, was listed on Wednesday as threatened. The listing was prompted by a lawsuit filed last August by the Center for Biological Diversity. Settlement of that lawsuit led to two other new listings earlier this month, for the Kaua`i cave wolf spider and the Kaua`i cave amphipod.

A variety of intentional and accidental introductions of nonnative fish, snails, flies and frogs threaten the survival of the Newcomb’s snail. The most serious threat is predation by the rosy glandina snail, introduced in Hawaii in 1955. It has decimated native snail species throughout the Pacific.

Other threats include potential water development projects that could affect the fresh water springs providing the species’ habitat.

"The decline of the Newcomb’s snail is yet another example of the devastating effect of alien species on Hawaii’s native species and the ecosystems upon which they depend," said Badgley. "By protecting the Newcomb’s snail, we hope not only to save another piece of a unique Hawaiian ecosystem but also to highlight the need to protect its freshwater resources."