Texas milkweed listed as an endangered species by Fish and Wildlife Service

661 acres in Starr and Zapata counties were designated as critical habitats

Prostrate milkweed. (Sam Kieschnick, Sam Kieschnick via The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

SAN ANTONIO – The prostrate milkweed plant that grows in South Texas and aids pollinators has been listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The service announced on Monday that the rare flowering plant has only 24 populations remaining in South Texas and Northeastern Mexico.

Additionally, 661 acres in Starr and Zapata counties have been designated as critical habitats. The designated critical habitats include 137 acres of federal land on the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and 523 acres of private— and county-owned land.

Prostrate milkweed attracts pollinators and serves as a host plant for monarch butterflies, which are also declining.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the plant is diminishing due to a number of factors, including construction, encroachment from invasive plants and border security activity.

By establishing a critical habitat, agencies must contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before they use the land for activities.

“Establishing critical habitat raises awareness of prostrate milkweed and may help us work more effectively with partners to focus our conservation efforts to preserve the remaining species and slow the rate of its declining habitat. Critical habitat for the plant includes areas that are particularly important for the conservation of the species,” the release states.

The release adds that establishing a critical habitat does not affect land ownership.

For more information, search Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2021-0041 on regulations.gov.

The migratory monarch butterfly, a sub species of the monarch, is known for migrating from Canada to Mexico every Fall and is now endangered, just two steps away from extinction.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.