Rare Big Bend Grass Added to Federal Endangered Species List
Most agencies, universities and conservationists continue to blame cattle grazing for grassland decline. The biodiversity loss described in this article is real but the blame is misplaced. The real cause of grassland decline is lack of animal impact from periodic grazing of bison or cattle and abundant wild species. The finely balanced system also requires an abundance of predators to manage prey populations and prompt instinctual herd behavior. Fire, animal eradications and range poisons cannot replace these animals. Wildlife and plants will continue to decline until this ecological fact is recognized.
NOTE: This post initially appeared on SAExpressNews.com on September 6, 2017
A species of grass known to grow in only one place in West Texas is the first species to be added to the federal endangered list under President Donald Trump’s administration.
Only 56 individual plants remain of Guadalupe fescue, which grows in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A post in Thursday’s Federal Register also states the service has designated 7,815 acres of land in the park as critical habitat.
The grass once thrived in the conifer-oak woodlands of West Texas above 6,000 feet. These habitats are known as “sky islands” for their abrupt elevation shift and isolated ecosystems that differ from the desert floor below.
“The Guadalupe fescue was like green gold to cattle ranchers, whose cows ate it up to the brink of extinction,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, which worked to have the grass protected.
The suppression of periodic wildfires could also be a factor in its decline, the service stated.
Though once found in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Guadalupe fescue has since disappeared from that landscape, according to the service. It could possibly still grow in three sites in Coahuila, Mexico.