May is Endangered Species Month in the United States. Forty years ago this landmark law was passed by a bipartisan U.S. Congress and signed by a Republican president to protect plants and animal from extinction. This was a great event in our nation’s history when we as stood shoulder to shoulder and let the world know that we recognize the value of other forms of life that share the earth and that we would take our stewardship responsibilities serious. We can only hope that this sense of unity will be rekindled as we face the challenges of climate change.
The Acuña cactus, Echinomastus erectocentrus var. acunensis has been proposed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species because of the 80 percent mortality documented within monitored populations. Furthermore there is little or no reproduction recorded for these populations. Increased insect attack in combination with water and heat stress, symptoms of climate change, contributes to this species decline. As most living Acuña cactus individuals occur along the U.S. Mexico border, border activities are also considered a threat to this species.
The SDNM has at least one population of Acuña cactus and because its habitat requirements are widespread within the monument it is suspected that there may be additional Acuña cactuses nearby.
The Acuña cactus is a small spherical cactus that occurs in valleys and on small knolls and gravel ridges in the Sonoran Desert scrub of southern Arizona’s Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties and in Sonora, Mexico.
Public lands like the Sonoran Desert National Monument are refuges for many species of plants and animals. We must be vigilant in making sure that we steward these lands in a manner that will ensure we do not destroy what we hold dear.