Furbish lousewort on the St. John River in 1977. Credit: Courtesy of THE NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN PUBLIC RELATIONS DEPARTMENT

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While many people are familiar with threatened and endangered species like piping plover, Atlantic salmon, Canada lynx, and leatherback sea turtle, they may not realize that plant species — just as important as the furry, feathered, and scaled — are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 as well. There are three federally listed plant species in Maine that need the protection of this important law so that they’re not wiped out forever: the Furbish lousewort (endangered), and the eastern prairie fringed orchid and the small whorled pogonia (both threatened).

My interest in plants began nearly 50 years ago when I set out to study the Arctic/alpine plants of Katahdin. Mountain environments are tough places to live and, not surprisingly, the diversity of animal species in a mountain environment increases with the diversity of plants in those places. There are many ways to ensure that the diversity of life is rich and intact, especially in the face of a rapidly changing climate. The ESA and Maine ESA (1975) are two very good tools for the job.

For the ESA to continue to be effective in protecting and recovering species, it needs adequate funding. I urge Rep. Chellie Pingree, an environmental champion for Maine’s first Congressional District, to increase funding for the ESA in the fiscal year 23 appropriations bill. It may be easy to overlook the importance of saving rare plants, but losing them would take a bigger toll on society — and ecosystems –—than people may think.

Don Hudson