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A shooting leaves six dead at a school in Nashville, the White House commends Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to pause judicial reform, and mayors question the reach of state and federal authorities over local decisions.


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Imperiled Global Species Map Shows Texas Ranks High


Monday, December 26, 2022   

When a scientist with the nonprofit group NatureServe began studying where biodiversity is most at risk in America, she never expected Texas to rank so high.

The research by Healy Hamilton - the chief scientist at NatureServe - looks at the risk of global extinction for plants and animals across the globe.

She said she's discovered that animals such as wolves and grizzly bears are imperiled in some areas of the U.S. - but they are not at risk of global extinction. Instead, bees, butterflies, fish, mussels, crayfish and flowering plants are much more threatened - especially in Texas.

"When we looked at top 10 states for imperiled plants," said Hamilton, "top 10 states for imperiled pollinators, top 10 states for imperiled vertebrates, and top 10 states for imperiled fresh-water invertebrates, Texas was in all four of those categories."

Hamilton noted that the vast majority of land in Texas is privately owned, making it hard for intervention if a species is threatened.

The map, prepared by NatureServe and other groups, may help the Biden administration with development of the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas - a new tool that will be used to reflect baseline information on the nation's lands and waters.

Hamilton said the loss of habitat in the Southwest is sometimes due to housing and industrial development, oil and gas operations, infrastructure builds or damage from off-road vehicles.

That means people, not climate change, are often responsible for changing the landscape where plants would naturally be found.

"There are 2,216 species that are included in this map," said Hamilton, "1,654 of them are plants. So, plants are in trouble."

Hamilton said she worries for the star cactus, which resembles a green sand dollar with a bright yellow bloom and only exists in southern Texas and northern Mexico.

She said it's part of an intricate web of life most folks take for granted, and compares its potential extinction to losing one or two rivets on an airplane.

"Oh well, that was only one rivet that popped out," said Hamilton, "we're fine. Except for that, it's not just one rivet - we don't even know all the extinctions, but there've been hundreds. So, how many rivets do you lose in an airplane before you're worried about flying in it anymore?"

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