- Associated Press - Monday, January 25, 2016

VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Federal officials have designated over 7,800 acres as critical habitat for two endangered Florida cacti.

Cindy Dohner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says identifying critical habitat in six counties is essential to conserving the Florida semaphore cactus and the aboriginal prickly-apple.

Both plants are large, tree-like cacti. Officials says both species are threatened by vandalism, plant collectors, habitat loss and competition from non-native, invasive plants.

Wild populations of Florida semaphore cactus are no longer found on half the islands in the Florida Keys where they historically lived.

The critical habitat designated for each cactus includes federal, state, county and private lands. The designation doesn’t establish a conservation area, but federal agencies must make a special effort at conservation if they are working in areas designated as critical habitat.

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