Since 1989, Dwarf Flowered Heartleaf (Hexastylis naniflora) has been protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to “delist” the species – remove it from the Endangered Species list and thus remove its protections under the Endangered Species Act.
Dwarf Flowered Heartleaf lives only in three counties in South Carolina (Greenville, Spartanburg, and Cherokee) and part of the North Carolina Piedmont. The Society worked successfully to protect property next to Blackwell Heritage Preserve in Travelers Rest, which contains both Bunched Arrowhead and Dwarf Flowered Heartleaf, and successfully opposed another development in Travelers Rest that would have wiped out a population of the plant. With the leadership of the Society’s member Gill Newberry, SC DNR established Peters Creek Heritage Preserve in Spartanburg to protect a population of the plant.
The SC Native Plant Society, SC DNR, Prof. Newberry, botanist L.L. (Chick) Gaddy, and researchers from Appalachian State University all submitted comments opposing the removal of this species from the Threatened List. Among other things, the comments noted that in 2017 the Service established a quota to deny 30 species a year in our region the protections of the Endangered Species Act in violation of the Act, that the Service had failed to comply with requirements it set out in 2011 for recovery of the species, that the Service was ignoring recent research that indicates that many of the populations it relies upon in North Carolina are in fact a different species, and that the species faces tremendous threats from development in the Piedmont and climate change.
The Native Plant Society, DNR, and the scientists most familiar with the plant hope that the Fish and Wildlife Service, now under new leadership, will withdraw this proposal. To review the comments, go to www.regulations.gov, put “hexastylis naniflora” in the search function, click on the fifth result of the search (the Proposed Rule), and then click on the “Browse Comments” button.
Update by Frank Holleman