For Immediate Release, November 16, 2022
Ragan Whitlock, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 426-3653, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawsuit Aims to Protect Critical Habitat for Rare South Florida Beetle
Miami Tiger Beetle Threatened by Development, Sea-Level Rise
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— Conservation groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to push the agency to protect endangered Miami tiger beetles by designating lifesaving critical habitat. The proposed critical habitat includes areas in Miami’s Richmond Pine Rocklands, which are under imminent threat from development.
“These tiny, ferocious beetles are facing an onslaught of development, and they can’t wait any longer for habitat safeguards,” said Ragan Whitlock, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Critical habitat protections remain one of the most effective means of protecting endangered species like the Miami tiger beetle.”
The Miami tiger beetle is currently known to occur in only two populations, separated by urban development, in Miami-Dade County.
“Once again, conservation groups have had to resort to litigation to get the Service to do its job — this time to finalize critical habit designations for the beetle,” said Dennis Olle, president of the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. “This is an unfortunate and needless barrier to badly needed conservation.”
“The Miami tiger beetle is facing habitat loss at an alarming rate,” said Lauren Jonaitis, Tropical Audubon Society’s senior conservation director. “Habitat loss is the greatest threat to both our indigenous species and biodiversity. Therefore, to protect our quality of life for future generations, we must protect our native wildlife to support a healthy ecosystem. To do this, the Service needs to do its job and designate critical habitat for the critically endangered Miami tiger beetle. Identifying critical habitat for the beetle and other vanishing species informs landowners — and county residents — which specific areas in Miami-Dade are most crucial to a species’ recovery and future protection.”
In response to a 2014 Center petition, the Service listed the beetle as endangered in 2016 but did not concurrently designate critical habitat as required by the Endangered Species Act. Following legal action by the Center, the Service finally proposed critical habitat for the beetle in 2021, but the agency has failed to finalize the protections.
The Center filed the 2014 petition after learning that an area known as the Richmond Pine Rocklands in south Miami was under immediate threat from proposals for a strip mall and waterpark. This area is where the beetle was rediscovered in 2007, six decades after it was initially discovered. The pine rocklands contain the vast majority and largest single block of remaining habitat for the beetle, as well as several other endangered species. The strip mall has since been built, but not the waterpark, which would be adjacent to Zoo Miami.
The Miami tiger beetle is beautifully gem-like, with an emerald sheen. It is named for its aggressive, predatory behavior and strong mandibles. Its proposed critical habitat largely overlaps with designated critical habitat for Carter’s small-flowered flax, Florida brickell-bush, Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak and Florida leafwing.
Species with federally protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be moving toward recovery than species without it. Federal agencies that fund or permit projects in critical habitat must consult with the Service to ensure habitat is not adversely modified.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.