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SHSU Faculty Member Active
In Rare Plant Protection

Sam Houston State University faculty member Michael Warnock is involved in an unusual project to save a rare East Texas plant known as the Neches River rose-mallow.

The plant is found only within Trinity, Houston and Cherokee counties and is restricted to regularly flooded marshes and wetlands. Due to its rarity, it is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The rose-mallow is a perennial herb growing three to seven feet tall and producing flowers between June and September. The flowers are large, creamy-white in color, and have a deep red spot at the base. The blossoms close at night and open in the day's sun.

An agreement to protect and manage the plant, which is found in only three Texas counties, was signed in Huntsville recently between Champion International Corporation, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The conservation agreement is the first signed by a private landowner in Texas to manage and protect a rare plant, and one of only a handful of such agreements in the United States. According to the agreement, Champion will establish a management area on its Trinity County lands on which the rose-mallow is found.

Warnock, a botanist who is also director of the Texas Regional Institute for Environmental Studies at Sam Houston State University, said that the plant is found within the flood plains of the Angelina, Neches and Trinity rivers, and that there is only one population each in Trinity, Houston and Cherokee counties.

The Champion site is on White Rock Creek, a tributary of the Trinity River.

"If enough populations of the rose-mallow can be located and protected, listing might not be required," said Warnock. "Champion deserves recognition for their proactive approach to endangered species issues in East Texas."

The three parties involved in the recent agreement will share expertise and cooperate to provide protection and management for the rose-mallow population.

"We are very excited about this agreement," said Lynn Starnes, geographic manager for Texas Region II of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Most endangered species in Texas will never be recovered without the support of private landowners."

"We have been very pleased with Champion's enthusiasm for conservation efforts," said Kathy Nemec, a biologist in the service's Houston office. "The plant is so rare that the protection of every site is critically important to recovery."

Gary Graham, chief of the endangered resources program of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said, "These kinds of efforts, when led by industry, provide a very positive direction for conservation in Texas for the future."

"The goal of this protection program is to provide a habitat which will enable the rose-mallow to survive and expand in East Texas," said David Baggett of Huntsville, Champion's regional wildlife manager. "Our hope is to reduce the need for listing the species as threatened or endangered by working together."

Max Ekenberg, general manager of Champion's Forest Resources Division, which manages over a million acres of company land in East Texas, said that Champion is committed to "total environmental stewardship."

Champion has a number of other agreements with the Fish and Wildlife Service, U. S. Forest Service, Texas Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy, to provide habitat, management and protection for rare species.

These agreements deal with red-cockaded woodpeckers, Louisiana pine snakes, the Houston toad, longleaf pine ecosystems, wetlands, and hardwood bottom lands.

Champion is an integrated forest products company with significant operations in the U. S., Brazil and Canada. The company is a major producer of coated and uncoated papers and market pulp. It also produces selected papers for packaging, as well as lumber and plywood, and manages more than 10 million acres of forest lands supporting its manufacturing facilities.


SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Champion Media Contact: David Baggett (409) 291-3381
Jan. 27, 1998

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