The US Fish and Wildlife Service proposed adding the White Fringeless Orchid to the Threatened and Endangered Species List this week. In a press release, the FWS explained that the orchid deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act becuase it only exists in small, isolated and vulnerable populations in five southeastern states, including Georgia, and that it will be listed as threatened.
Threatened species are at risk of becoming endangered whereas endangered species face a more immediate risk of extinction.
The orchid has been a candidate for inclusion on the list since 1999, and the proposed listing comes as part of an agreement the FWS entered into following a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2004.
The Endangered Species Act is fairly toothless in regard to the protections it provides to listed plants compared to the protections afforded listed animals. Only plants growing on public lands really gain much protection while the act prohibits a “take” of listed fish and wildife anywhere in the US. “Take” is defined by the act to include a number of actions, from killing to merely pursuing listed animals. The act also prohibits the selling and transporting of listed plants and animals.
The listing will become final after a mandatory public comment period.