Three Plants in U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico Get Endangered Species Act Protection

6,500 Acres of Critical Habitat Protected

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— Pursuant to a 2011 agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Endangered Species Act protection today for three rare plants in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The decision follows lawsuits brought by the Center and will provide critical habitat protection for Egger’s agave, island brittleleaf and Puerto Rico manjack, which have been waiting for federal protection since 1980.

“These remarkable plants have been pushed to the brink of extinction by land-use practices, but the Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plants and animals under its care and will make sure they’re around for generations to come,” said Jaclyn Lopez, the Center’s Florida-based attorney. “I’m happy that these three unique plants finally have the habitat protection they need to recover.”

The Service placed all three plants on the candidate waiting list for protection in 1980. In 2011 the Center and the Service reached a landmark settlement requiring final listing decisions for all of the species on the candidate list. Today the Service listed Egger’s agave (Agave eggersiana) and island brittleleaf (Gonocalyx concolor) as endangered and Puerto Rico manjack (Varronia rupicola) as threatened, and designated 50.6 acres of critical habitat for Egger’s agave, 198 acres for island brittleleaf and 6,547 acres for Puerto Rico manjack.

Egger’s agave is a beautiful, large perennial herb native only to the dry hillsides of eastern St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2004 the Center filed a lawsuit requiring the Service to protect the stunning, long-lived, 20-foot-tall plant. In 2006 the Service found the plant did not warrant protection. The Center challenged that determination and in 2009 reached a settlement agreement with the Service for proposing listing by 2010.

Island brittleleaf is a small, evergreen shrub that grows as an epiphyte in the forests of Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico manjack is a 16-foot large shrub that occurs in southern Puerto Rico. All three species are threatened by development, and sea-level rise could threaten Egger’s agave and Puerto Rico manjack.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is making excellent progress in addressing the backlog of imperiled species in need of protection,” said Lopez. “Congress must now step up to the plate and designate the funds the agency needs to fully recover our country’s endangered plants and animals.”

To date 136 plants and animals have received protection as a result of the Center’s 2011 agreement, and another seven are proposed for protection. Read more about the Center’s 757 agreement and our sea-level rise campaign.