March 7, 2006 – Nearly a decade after the Planning and Natural Resources Department's Fish and Wildlife Division asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put two plant species found in the Virgin Islands on the Endangered Species List, the federal agency said no.
Those species are Agave eggersiana, which grows only on St. Croix, and Solanum conocarpum, a St. John plant better known as marrón bacora.
Agave eggersiana is a robust, perennial herb that can grow from 16 to 23 feet tall. Its flowers are large and funnel- or tubular-shaped. Solanum conocarpum — native to St. John — is a thornless, flowering shrub that may reach more than 9 feet in height.
A press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released Tuesday indicated that the agency found no evidence that either plant warrants listing as threatened or endangered under the criteria for the federal Endangered Species Act.
Fish and Wildlife director Barbara Kojis said Tuesday that the local department had received no information from the federal agency indicating why the request was turned down. In fact, she said that she first learned about it when she received a copy of the federal service's press release forwarded by a reporter.
She said her department will ask for more information on why the federal agency turned down the request.
"But if we do disagree with the finding, then we'll submit our request again," Kojas said.
A call to federal Fish and Wildlife spokesman Lilibeth Serrano in Puerto Rico requesting more information was not returned.
The press release indicated that federal agency found "insufficient information to determine the true status of either plant in the wild." Additionally, the agency wrote that there was a lack of sufficient evidence of which threats, if any, affect the species.
The release also indicated that there is no evidence of serious threats to the species from overutilization for commercial, recreational or educational purposes or from inadequate regulatory mechanisms. Additionally, there is no data to show that destruction or curtailment of the species' habit or range, disease, predation, or man-made factors threaten the plants.
Regarding Agave eggersiana, Kojis said when local Fish and Wildlife officials requested that it be included on the Endangered Species List, it only grew in the wild. She said that since then, staff from St. George Village Botanical Gardens successfully propagated it.
"It's unclear if it still exists in the wild," she said.
She said there are now about 200 Solanum conocarpum plants growing in the V.I. National Park on St. John.
"Two hundred plants are not very many," she added.
Rafe Boulon, chief of resource management at the park, was out of the office and could not be reached for comment.
Federal Fish and Wildlife indicated that it will continue to monitor the status of the plants and their habitats.
According to the press release, the federal agency released its findings after the Center for Biological Diversity on Sept. 1, 2004 filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Interior Department and federal Fish and Wildlife. Federal Fish and Wildlife on April 27, 2005 agreed to release the information by Feb. 28.
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