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Federal officials propose removing cactus native to Colorado from endangered species list

Sclerocactus glaucus - more commonly known as the Colorado hookless cactus - was first declared endangered or threatened in 1996
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Posted at 11:34 AM, Apr 18, 2023

DENVER – Federal officials are proposing the removal of a cactus native to Colorado from the endangered species list after nearly 30 years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week a proposed rule to remove Sclerocactus glaucus, more commonly known as the Colorado hookless cactus — a small barrel cactus found in the Colorado and Gunnison River Basins in western Colorado — from the list of federally threatened and endangered species.

The succulent was first determined to be a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1979 and listed as endangered or threatened 17 years later, in 1996, according to the service’s Environmental Conversation Online System.

The proposal comes after scientists from the Denver Botanic Gardens gathered and analyzed data which projected that populations were stable and resilient.

Denver Botanic Gardens scientists have been working with the Bureau of Land Management on a 10-year post-delisting plan to monitor and test the resiliency of the cactus, its ability to live in current populations, or shift as climate change alters habitat conditions and report findings annually to the Service, according to a news release.

“Data collection on long-lived species, such as this cactus, is labor intensive and it takes years to see results,” said Michelle DePrenger-Levin, a population biology research associate. “It’s exciting to see my efforts lead to a better understanding of how this cactus survives through climate and human caused stressors and inspires me to continue work on this and many other rare and threatened species.”

Denver 7+ Colorado News Latest Headlines | April 18, 8am

There were 16 Colorado plants listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, including Sclerocactus glaucus, in 2022. Through the work of the Denver Botanic Gardens, scientists were able to track “the fates of hundreds of Sclerocactus glaucus plants” across ten wild populations since 2008 in order to understand how they were responding to both environmental and human-caused pressures.

“It was found that they were resilient to recent periods of drought and that population trends were stable,” scientists noted.

The proposed rule will now undergo a 60-day comment period and barring any reasons not to proceed, the delisting will go into effect in June 2023.

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