Border Plant Goes On Endangered Species List


Monarch butterfly feeding on a milkweed plant | Image by Catherine Avilez

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) declared the prostrate milkweed an endangered species on Monday, despite the Texas attorney general saying that the designation would prompt border security concerns.

As part of the decision, 661 acres have been designated as critical habitats for the plant, according to E&E News. 

The prostrate milkweed is only found 9 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.

There are 24 areas of land remaining in Starr and Zapata counties in Texas where the plants can be found. The species is “dormant and undetectable except for short periods of time after infrequent, heavy rainfall,” according to a rule released by the FWS. 

The plant is native to Texas and northeastern Mexico, and monarch butterflies feed exclusively on its leaves, according to The National Wildlife Foundation.

According to the press release from FWS, it is found on 137 acres of federally owned land and 523 acres of privately owned land. 

FWS noted in the rule, “The construction of border barriers, roads, and drag strips are potential threats of high magnitude to prostrate milkweed populations, depending on their alignment, design, and proximity to populations and local topography.” 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton opposed the decision last year, saying that the designation would restrict enforcement capabilities in areas along the border, potentially leading to an “influx of illegal aliens” and jeopardizing Texans’ safety, according to Courthouse News Service. 

FWS dismissed these border concerns, stating that they had yet to get any information from the Defense Department or the Department of Homeland Security regarding the proposed critical habit designation, according to E&E News.

Paxton said areas along the border should be excluded from critical habitat designation.

“The proposed designation potentially affects ongoing and future efforts to erect and establish deterrents to illegal border crossings, including but not limited to construction of a border barrier,” Paxton said in a letter to FWS. 

“One would hope that saving a person from being trafficked by allowing for sufficient border enforcement activities … would outweigh the designation of a plant species as endangered or habitat as critical,” continued Paxton.  

FWS maintained that the endangered species status of the prostrate milkweed would not interfere with border security.

“The listing and designation of critical habitat for prostrate milkweed will not preclude border wall construction or security operations,” FWS said, per E&E News. “[I]t is also unlikely that there will be future restrictions on [U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s] border enforcement activities.”

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29 days ago

Milkweed is pretty easy to grow (as long as pesticides/herbicides aren’t used.)
It seems to me that Environmental groups could help to seed areas with milkweed.