KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A plant found only in a small area of the Cumberland Plateau has been taken off the federal endangered species list. Since the Cumberland sandwort, Minuartia cumberlandensis, was put on the list in 1988, Tennessee and Kentucky environmental officials – as well as federal agencies and conservation groups – have been working to protect the plant.
State and federal officials met Friday at Hazard Cave at Pickett CCC Memorial State Park to celebrate the milestone.
“This is a meaningful day for conservation,” said David Salyers, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner. “It’s a tribute to the partnerships involved that made this happen. This is another example of the great natural resources of our state and the determination to protect them.”
Cumberland sandwort occurs at the base and ledges of sandstone cliffs or rock overhangs in only four Tennessee counties – Pickett, Fentress, Morgan and Scott – and one county in Kentucky, McCreary.
“The recovery of the Cumberland sandwort is a conservation success that would not be possible without our dedicated partners,” said Dr. Catherine Phillips, the Service’s assistant regional director for Ecological Services. “Partnerships are essential to the success of the Endangered Species Act and the reason this plant will be enjoyed for years to come.”
The plant was first described to science in 1979 by Robert Kral of Vanderbilt University and Eugene Wofford of the University of Tennessee. Cumberland sandwort is now found in 71 places, 66 of which are on federal and state lands, managed by the National Park Service, Tennessee Division of Forestry, Tennessee Division of Natural Areas or Tennessee State Parks. Pickett CCC Memorial State Park has 29 of the 71 occurrences.
Hazard Cave also provides a reachable location to view the plant, as does Slave Falls at the Big South Fork National Recreation Area.
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At the time of the listing, only 28 occurrences of the plant were known.
To keep the ensure the species’ viability, TDEC Division of Natural areas and partners will continue monitoring the species for five years.
The National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, and Missouri Botanical Garden also aided in the protection of the plant.