U.S. Fish and Wildlife Faces Lawsuit For Not Protecting Ten Florida Species | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Faces Lawsuit For Not Protecting Ten Florida Species

Ten relatively obscure species found in the Sunshine State have landed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a legal tussle.

The black rail, the Georgia blind salamander, a siltsnail, and the purple skimmer are among the animals that Fish and Wildlife has failed to adequately protect, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. 

On Monday, the group said it plans to sue the federal agency for not addressing a slew of issues that imperil these animals. 

Habitat destruction, water pollution, and water withdrawals are among the most pressing threats to the animals, according to a press statement from the conservation group. It also noted that all of the species rely on Florida's freshwater and wetlands. 

"The aquatic habitats they live in are urgently threatened by water demands and pollution, and they need Endangered Species Act protection to survive," said a statement from Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida-based  attorney representing the Center for Biological Diversity.

The group noted that while federal authorities previously acknowledged that all ten species likely need protection, Fish and Wildlife "failed to make the required 12-month findings to decide whether protection will be granted."

Earlier this year, the Center for Biological Diversity also raised concern that numerous species of coral found in Florida waters are likely to go extinct. 

Below is information from the Center for Biological Diversity on the ten species involved in the matter. 

The black rail is a secretive, rarely encountered migratory bird that can be found throughout Florida. Because it nests in salt and freshwater marshes, water depth and quality are critical.

The Georgia blind salamander occurs not only in two Georgia counties, but in Jackson County, Fla., where it has been designated a Florida "species of special concern." The creature spends its entire lifetime in the darkness of caves. There are fewer than 15 known populations, all threatened by water fluctuations and pollution.

The Palatka skipper is a small, brown butterfly found in the Keys. Its habitat is diminishing, and only 10 adults have been sighted since 2006.

The purple skimmer is a dragonfly that inhabits clear water lakes in northern Florida, but is now only regularly found at one lake.

The small-flower meadow beauty is a dainty, white, four-petaled flower known from the Florida panhandle. It occurs along the edges of ponds and wet areas, and is primarily threatened by habitat destruction due to hydrological and land-use alterations.

The Panama City, Orlando cave and Big Blue Springs cave crayfish are unique species considered critically imperiled due to their relatively limited ranges as well as habitat degradation. The Panama City crayfish is known only from the flatwoods and temporary ponds of a small area of Bay County; the greatest threat to its survival is habitat destruction. The Orlando cave crayfishis found in flooded limestone caves, and is known only from a handful of isolated locations in the Orlando metro area. Several decades ago, the Service found that the Orlando cave crayfish warranted listing as an endangered species, but it never finalized the listing. The Big Blue Springs cave crayfish is found only in a handful of Florida caves in Wakulla, Leon and Jefferson counties. A blind cave-dweller, this crayfish is vulnerable to changes in both water quality and water quantity. Florida lists the Orlando cave and Big Blue Springs cave crayfish as "species of greatest conservation need" and the Panama City crayfish as a "species of special concern."

The Ichetucknee siltsnail is believed to occur in only 10 square yards of submerged mosses and cypress roots at Coffee Spring, along the west bank of the Ichetucknee River. The entirely spring-fed, crystal-clear river attracts many recreational visitors. The Ichetucknee springs are threatened by diminishing springs output brought on by drought and groundwater pumping, as well as nitrate pollution from atmospheric deposition and nearby pasture and crop lands. These threats compound its extremely limited distribution to put the siltsnail in imminent danger of extinction.

The Florida cave amphipod is found throughout northern Florida, but is severely threatened by water withdrawal and other factors. Amphipods are tiny scavenging crustaceans; population sites of this species are largely clustered in the panhandle region, where it is considered a "species of greatest conservation need."