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Native Kentucky Plant To Get Protection Under Endangered Species Act

A small, lilac-colored wildflower found only in parts of Jefferson and Bullitt counties will soon be considered a threatened under the Endangered Species Act.The Kentucky Glade Cress is dwindling in the wild due in large part to sprawling residential and commercial development.A plot of more than 2,000 acres in southeastern Jefferson and northeastern Bullitt Counties is considered a critical habitat for the plant and will be preserved.Lee Andrews, a spokesman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said there is still a “fair amount” of the flower left.“It’s not like there are only one or two left,” he said.  “But the vast majority of them are small and in pretty poor shape.”Andrew said officials will have an advantage when establishing parameters to protect the plant because of the plant's forthcoming threatened species designation.“Particularly with private land owners,” he said.  “The habitat is pretty unique and it is a Kentucky endemic, it occurs nowhere else in the world.”Andrews said the full protection from the Endangered Species Act will begin in about a month.The Glade Cress is an annual plant that grows best on thin, flat soils and blooms from late February to early March.  It can reach heights of 4 inches.The plant is particularly vulnerable to temporary natural and man-made changes such as floods, droughts, off road vehicle disturbance and other non-permanent impacts to its habitat, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Andrews described the areas the plant grows best as “barrens.”“If you don’t have barrens, the sort of shallow soil areas, then you’re not going to have this plant,” he said.  “It has a lot do with the sort of habitat loss that has occurred over the years. This is just one of many species tied to that type of habitat that is really declining.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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