Archived Outdoors

Smooth coneflower recovery spurs downlisting proposal

Due to continually strengthening populations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to downlist the smooth coneflower from an endangered species to a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. 

The plant is a close relative to but distinct from the commercially available purple coneflower. Its range includes parts of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Its North Carolina range includes Mecklenburg, Granville and Durham counties. 

The proposed downlisting is another example of the power of conservation partnerships between federal, state and private stakeholders under the ESA, according to a press release from the USFWS. When the smooth coneflower was listed as an endangered species in 1992, 39 populations had disappeared and the remaining 21 populations were vulnerable or unstable. Today, 44 distinct populations of smooth coneflower exist, including six in North Carolina, and 16 of them are considered healthy and occur within protected national forests and nature preserves where threats from habitat modification have been reduced. 

A 60-day public comment period on the proposed downlisting ends Aug. 23. To comment, search for docket number FWS–R4–ES–2020–0063 at www.regulations.gov. Learn more about the plant at www.fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/plants/smooth-coneflower.

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