Tennessee purple coneflowers - FWS photoThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed removing the Tennessee purple coneflower from the list of threatened and endangered species, marking the success of a decades-long cooperative conservation effort under the Endangered Species Act.

“More than 30 years of protecting and expanding Tennessee purple coneflower colonies finally brought success to conservation partners,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Thanks to the efforts of many people, along with adequate regulation, these populations have stabilized to the point that the species has recovered and no longer needs the protection of the Endangered Species Act.”

Declared to be endangered in 1979, the Tennessee purple coneflower was found only in small populations in Davidson, Rutherford, and Wilson counties, each considered a unique population. Successful recovery efforts grew the known number and increased distribution of coneflower populations range-wide, and provided adequate protection and management to ensure the plant’s long-term survival and recovery.  

In 1989, the Service published a recovery plan that would require that the species exist in five secure or protected populations, with three thriving colonies each. There are now 19 such colonies making up 83 percent of the species’ distribution.  

Conservation partners working more than 30 years to protect and expand the coneflower colonies include government agencies, like the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service, along with The Nature Conservancy, and various private landowners.  

Many factors influenced the recovery, including discovering new colonies through surveys of suitable habitat; researching genetics, and ecology; and establishing new colonies from seed or nursery propagated plants.  

Perhaps most importantly, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation bought or secured the sites to protect the species, building fences to protect colonies from outdoor recreational vehicle damage, removing competing vegetation, and using prescribed burns to provide habitat conditions that help the species thrive.  

Tennessee purple coneflowers, existing in limestone barrens and cedar glades, is a member of the sunflower family in the genus Echinacea, which includes several purple coneflower species that are commercially marketed for ornamental and medicinal purposes. The species can be found commercially for landscaping purposes, but most often these plants are hybrids.  

The Service will work with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to implement a post-delisting monitoring plan for at least five years if the species is delisted.  

The Service is soliciting comments and information from the public, other governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties, particularly comments relating to the biological information about this species, relevant data pertaining to threats, especially relating to current or planned activities near Tennessee purple coneflower habitat, and the post-delisting monitoring plan.  

The rule was published in today’s Federal Register, and the public is invited to comment on the proposal for the next 60 days until October 12, 2010.  Written comments regarding the proposal  must be received by October 12, 2010. All comments will be considered before a final determination is made. Visit www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions for submitting comments.

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