Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 6, 2017

Contact: Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,

Lawsuit Launched Over Trump Administration's Denial of Protection to Florida Lizard

Florida Keys Mole Skink Threatened by Sea-level Rise

MIAMI— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of its intent to sue the Trump administration for denying protection to the Florida Keys mole skink under the Endangered Species Act.

Today’s filing noted that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied the skink protection in October despite devastating threats from flooding caused by rising seas, which are expected to inundate nearly half the lizard’s coastal habitat and underground burrows by 2060 and accelerate through the end of the century. Along with climate change, the animal is also threatened by ongoing urban sprawl in the Keys.

“Without help the Florida Keys mole skink is definitely headed for extinction,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney dedicated to protecting rare reptiles and amphibians. “This little lizard’s only home, the Florida Keys’ sandy coast, is being submerged by rising seas and battered by increasingly intense storms. If we don’t curb greenhouse gas pollution, this lizard and so many other plants and animals will be lost forever.”

The Center petitioned for protection of the Florida Keys mole skink in 2010. In 2015 the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a positive 90-day finding, concluding the skink might warrant the Endangered Species Act’s protections. A court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Center required the Service to make a decision on whether to protect the skink by Sept. 30, 2017.

The skink is a small, shiny, brown lizard with a bright pink tail that lives exclusively on a few islands off the tip of Florida along narrow strips of shoreline. It digs burrows in the sandy soil to protect its eggs and hunts insect prey under leaves, debris, and washed-up vegetation called tidal wrack.

The lizard’s coastal habitat makes it exceedingly vulnerable to rising seas and intensifying storms. Because it lives in a small geographic area, one major storm event has the potential to wipe out the entire species. The Service decided not to protect the Florida Keys mole skink despite scientific evidence of these lethal threats.

“These lizards are struggling to survive on a sinking lifeboat,” said Bennett. “We have a responsibility to rescue them before they’re drowned by rising seas. The Center will fight to overturn this unscientific, irresponsible denial and salvage the future for these exquisite little animals.”

Florida Keys mole skink

Photo courtesy USFWS. This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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