Reevaluation/Confirmation of Status
The status of S. parksii as an endangered species came into question immediately after listing. Listing was based on an extremely small number of known plants and a paucity of historical records from the area. Initial, detailed surveys accomplished during preparation of the initial Recovery Plan revealed the presence of fairly large populations of the 'core' areas in Brazos and Grimes Counties. Subsequent reports of populations from Post Oak woodlands along the entire Navasota drainage expanded the known range of this species. While the emerging picture of this plant's distribution lacks full documentation and clarity, it is clear that S. parksii has a broader distribution than some Texas endemics, such as Liatris cymosa, that are not listed as endangered. However, unlike Liatris cymosa, S. parksii shows 'core' centers of distribution, in terms of population density, and an affinity for undisturbed woodland habitat. Given the complex set of circumstances that have developed in association with this species since its listing in 1982, those responsible for status assignment should reevaluate the endangered status of this species.
Implementation of this Recovery Plan will require a strong initial commitment. The plan, however, is designed to minimize long term conflict between environmental and developmental objectives in the College Station area. If the fundamental objectives of this plan - long-term preserves - are not achieved, then conflicts that are detrimental to both conservation and development will continue. Thus, this plan assumes continued listing of this species as endangered with a recovery priority that will allow implementation of the plan.
Objectives and Recovery Criteria
Objectives: Of the 20 plant species that are endemic to Texas and listed as endangered by both Federal and State agencies, S. parksii is atypical. It does not occur at a remote site in the western portion of the state. Its habitat, in terms of soils, drainage, and associated vegetation, lies within a fairly large ecological zone, the Post Oak Savannah. Its native range of distribution is congruent with a state center of economic development and population expansion. As opposed to other endemic plant species inhabiting the woodlands of east/central Texas (Liatris cymosa, Abronia macrocarpa, Brazoria pulcherrima, Rhododonciliatus, Paronychia drummondii, P. chorizanthoides, Thalictrum texanum, Lupinus texensis, L. subcarnosus, Astragalus leptocarpus, Lechea san-sabeana, Cucurbita texana, Coreopsis nuecensis, Palafoxia reverchonii, Evax candida, Habranthus texanus, Polygonella parksii), S. parksii is not adapted to either open or disturbed sites. It is the only listed species from Texas that is directly associated with typical, Oak-Elm-Hickory vegetation of the Post Oak Savannah. Thus, the fate of S. parksii is directly linked to the fate of relatively old-growth Oak-Elm-Hickory woodlands currently standing in central Grimes County and southern Brazos County. As indicated in the original Recovery Plan for this species, and confirmed by development within the range of S. parksii since 1984, habitat for this species is steadily diminishing as development in the area proceeds. Maintenance or expansion of the native range of distribution is therefore an unrealistic objective. Thus, this plan is focused on survival, rather than recovery, of the species. Biological diversity represented by S. parksii will be preserved in perpetuity only if areas of old growth Oak-Elm-Hickory forest within its range of distribution are set aside as long term preserves or, as indicated in the original Recovery Plan, "safe sites."
Recovery Criteria: Areas currently designated as protected sites in Grimes and Brazos Counties include populations that represent genetic diversity from the two 'core' areas of S. parksii distribution. Spiranthes parksii should be considered for downlisting when:
· Procedures are established and in place to monitor, on an annual basis, S. parksii populations inhabiting the preserves. Observation of S. parksii populations over the past 8 years indicates that management activities in these areas should be minimal. Consequently, management plan development should be delayed until data from annual monitoring indicates that management intervention is needed.
Outline of Recovery Actions
1. Reevaluation/Confirmation of Status. Assess available data relating to distribution and abundance. Consider the source of the information, in terms of quality, documentation, and confirmation. Determine appropriate status and recovery priority for Spiranthesparksii.
2. Consider sale of Peach Creek Preserve. The single long-term S. parksii preserve, located at the junction of Peach Creek Road and State Rt. 6 does not function to shelter populations of S. parksii. It has no value as a general biodiversity preserve. The land does, however, have considerable commercial value. Funds secured from sale of this land could be invested in recovery actions listed below.
3. Establish Lick Creek Park as a permanent preserve. The initial Recovery Plan designated woodlands adjacent to Texas World Speedway as a high priority safe site in Brazos County. While the species currently occupies this area, construction associated with impoundments of the local drainage system has impacted this population system. While populations of the species inhabiting Lick Creek Park are smaller than those that once existed North of Texas World Speedway in terms of plant density per unit area, they are robust and well established. They occur along four temporary streams that feed Lick Creek from the northeastern uplands of the park area, ca. 1 mile from the Texas World Speedway site.
3123. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This
organization rejected the park as a gift in 1989 (Beachy, 1991). A request
to reconsider (Wilson, 1991b) produced no result. Again, reexamination
of the issue from a broader perspective (see item 3 below), and involvement
of the Endangered Species Branch, could produce a different result from
3121. Texas A&M University. Texas environmental
issues often involve graduates of this institution. Aggies are often part
of institutions, ranging from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Texas
Parks and Wildlife Department, that are engaged in large scale actions
that are of critical importance to state conservation biology. The institution
is currently moving toward a more active position, in terms of curriculum
and program development, on environmental education and research. Texas
A&M University, with no formal association with Lick Creek Park, is
a primary user of the park in that it is the only local natural area accessible
to faculty in life science departments. The TAMU Development Foundation
is well positioned to pursue possible patrons and long-term endowments.
These factors place TAMU as a prime candidate for institutional responsibility
for this area.
314. Establish procedures for operations of the preserve.
While preservation of S. parksii and subsequent downlisting
stand as the primary rationale for the creation of the preserve, maximum
utilization (see item 3 below) could involve other conservation biology
activities. Given the primary mission, the obvious benefit of maximum use,
and the dynamics of long term stewardship, specific operational protocols
3142. Monitoring. Consolidate available information on the park area and endangered taxa within the park. Establish an information base on history of the area, current biotic composition, immediate or potential impacts
41122. Private Owners. Two of the five 'protected'
sites are controlled by TMPA under lease from private owners. The current
Conservation Agreement states that "with respect to the inholdings, TMPA
may have rights in that property pursuant to various agreements and/or
leases" and that TMPA is not required to "keep those leases or agreements
in force longer than is necessary for surface coal mining and reclamation
operations." The two sites comprise 106 acres which supported 422 observed
flowering S. parksii in 1991 (Parker, 1992).
41122. The Nature Conservancy.
41123. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
41124. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
4122. Upper Navasota Drainage. Efforts to find
sites along the northern Navasota drainage (Robertson and Leon Counties)
during a 'good' flowering year (1986) produced a single population in western
Robertson County. Extensive "Long-Term Range Surveys" by TMPA and its contractors
(TMPA, 1991, p. 18) have resulted in the discovery of few, scattered populations
along the northern drainage (see Tab. 1). These, however, are located near
unusual habitats that support rare, threatened, and endangered plant species.
Multipurpose criteria for the selection of
sites' could be applied in this area.
41222. Abronia macrocarpa. The
only documented and confirmed record for S. parksii in Leon
County was recorded from near one of three known populations of another
endangered species, Abronia macrocarpa. More detailed information
regarding possible association between these two species could result in
the creation of a multipurpose 'safe site' for both listed taxa as well
as associated endemics of the deep sand zone of the northern Navasota drainage.
512. Other threatened/rare plant and animal species.
Lick Creek Park contains one of two known extant populations of the Houston
Meadow Rue, Thalictrum texanum (G2Q S2). Environmental impact
surveys for this small, inconspicuous plant must be accomplished after
leaf development begins and before full vegetative development of the spring
flora, which essentially hides the Meadow Rue. This relatively narrow temporal
window varies from year to year. The population at Lick Creek park provides
the only source of information regarding annual developmental response
for this species and the only certain target site (known to support populations
of the species) for future transplants. Lick Creek Park is also within
the narrow range of distribution of Liatris cymosa, a listed
Texas endemic (G2 S2). As indicated above, other potential S. parksii
preserves are within the range of distribution of other listed and endemic
species. Establishment and management of these sites could be based on
conservation objectives, such as mitigation and monitoring, that extend
beyond preservation simple preservation of S. parksii populations.
53. Public Education. As a municipal park, Lick
Creek Park is comparable to Texas State parks in that the area serves two
public functions, i.e., natural resource conservation and general visitor
usage for recreational activities. Numerous conflicts between these two
functions creates and difficult interface. Creation and management of a
functional balance between conservation and public recreation stands as
a central challenge for those responsible for these 'dual function' natural
areas and, given increasing concern for biodiversity issues at the national
level, future development and management. Proximity of the proposed permanent
safe sites to a major population center in central Texas provides an opportunity
to design natural areas with natural history recreation as a central theme,
and also develop management procedures that maximize this function and
minimize its impact on the sites as natural areas. Creative and innovative
efforts in this area could position these sites as promotive elements for
natural resource conservation in Texas.
l Selection, development, and management of the preserves
is based on multipurpose conservation usage, i.e., aspects of biodiversity
preservation in the Post Oak Savannah area of Texas that extend well beyond
refuge for a single species (item 5 above).
Both elements are essential. Eventual downlisting of this species requires a firm indication that the biological integrity of sites selected as S. parksii preserves will be intact over the long term. This, in turn, will require focused development of management plans that can be implemented and adjusted over the long term. If multipurpose conservation functions are part of this plan, and these functions serve the needs of several institutions or agencies, then critical plans for management and operation will evolve as work with these areas proceeds. Collaborative institutional involvement will insure long term stability and operational flexibility.
Anderson, E. 1991. Letter from Elise Anderson, Protection Assistant, The Nature Conservancy, San Antonio, Texas to Hugh Wilson, 13 June 1991.
Beachy, S. C. 1991. Letter from Stephen C. Beachy, Director, College Station Parks and Recreation Department to Andrew Sansom, Executive Director, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 8 March 1991.
Beachy, S. C. 1992. Letter from Stephen C. Beachy, Director, College Station Parks and Recreation Department to Hugh Wilson, 20 October 1992.
Bridges, E. L. and S. L. and Orzell. 1989. Additions and noteworthy vascular plant collections from Texas and Louisiana, with historical, ecological and geographic notes. Phytologia 66:12-69.
Catling, P. M. and K. L. McIntosh. 1979. Rediscovery of Spiranthesparksii Correll. Sida 8: 188-193.
College Station. 1990. City of College Station, Texas. Comprehensive Planning Program, Mapped "Land Use Concepts of Developed and Developing Areas.
Correll, D. S. 1947. Am. Orch. Soc. Bull. 16: 400
Marietta, K. L. and E. S. and Nixon. 1983. Vegetational analysis of a post oak-black hickory community in eastern Texas. Texas J. Sci. 35:198-203.
Parker, K. 1992. A Report on the 1991-1992 Survey/Monitor/Transplant Program for Navasota Ladies Tresses on the Gibbons Creek Lignite Mine, Grimes County, Texas. Prepared for the Texas Municipal Power Agency by Tejas Ecological Services 14 July 1992.
Orzell, S. and J. Poole. 1986. Letter from Steve Orzell and Jackie Poole (Texas Natural Heritage Program) to Stephen Beachy, Director, College Station Parks and Recreation Department, 19 May 1986.
Poole, J. L. and D. H. Riskind. 1987. Endangered, Threatened, or Protected Native Plants of Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, Texas.
Sansom, A. 1991. Letter from Andrew Sansom, Executive Director, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to Stephen Beachy, Director, College Station Parks and Recreation Department, 28 February 1991.
Sheviak, C. J. 1982. Biosystematic study of the Spiranthescernua complex. New York State Museum Bulletin 448. 73 pp.
Sheviak, C. J. 1986. Letter to Hugh Wilson - 13 Nov 1986.
Short, R. W. 1991. Letter to N. Thomas (U.S. EPA-Dallas); "Formal Section 7 Consultation of Texas Municipal Agency's Gibbons Creek Lignite Mine, Grimes County, Texas". 16 Oct 91.
Sullivan, D. 1992. Letter to T. Winn (KSA Engineers, Inc) from Dorinda Sullivan (Information System Manager, Texas Natural Heritage Program) regarding sensitive species and construction of the Texas A&M Sewage Treatment Plant (TAMU Project 1-2700). 3 June 1992
TMPA, 1991. Amended Navasota Ladies' Tresses Management Plan. 22 pp., 6 appendices, 6 exhibits. December, 1991.
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1984. Navasota Ladies'-Tresses Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Albuquerque, New Mexico. iii + 61 pp.
Wells, T. C. E. 1967. Changes in a population of Spiranthesspiralis (L.) Chevall, at Knocking Hoe National Nature Preserve, Bedfordshire, 1962-65. J. Ecol. 55: 83-99.
Wells, T. C. E. 1981. Population ecology of terrestrial orchids. In, H. Synge (ed.), The Biological Aspects of Rare Plant Conservation. John Wiley and Sons Ltd, New York.
Wilson, H. D. 1988. Progress Report, DOI-FWS Cooperative Agreement 14-16-0002-86-903, "Population Biology/Distribution of Spiranthesparksii, Sundew Creek Population, Lick Creek Park, College Station, Texas". September , 1988.
Wilson, H. D. 1991a. Letter (Peach Creek site survey report) from Hugh Wilson (Biology, TAMU) to Robert Short, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Arlington, Texas, 5 February 1991.
Wilson, H. D. 1991b. Letter from Hugh Wilson (Biology, TAMU) to Larry McKinney, Director, Resource Protection Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin, 19 April 1991.
Wilson, H. D. 1992. Letter from Hugh Wilson (Biology, TAMU) to David Diamond (Program Leader, Texas Natural Heritage) regarding sensitive species and TAMU Project 1-2700). 21 August 1992.
DOT - Texas State and County Highway Department
FWS - USDI Fish and Wildlife Service
ES - Ecological Services
LE - Law Enforcement
LCP - Lick Creek Park
PVT - Private Landowners
TAMU - Texas A&M University
TMPA - Texas Municipal Power Agency
TNC - The Nature Conservancy
TPWD - Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
CCS - City of College Station, Texas