For Immediate Release, September 23, 2019

Contact:

Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950, ebennett@biologicaldiversity.org

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration’s Refusal to Protect Florida Lizard

Florida Keys Mole Skink Is Threatened by Climate Crisis

MIAMI— The Center for Biological Diversity sued Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today for denying protection to the Florida Keys mole skink under the Endangered Species Act.

Climate change and rising seas are projected to inundate half the lizard’s coastal habitat on the Florida Keys by 2060 and more than three-quarters by the end of the century. In addition, urban sprawl is squeezing the animal into increasingly smaller areas, while exposing it to threats from pollution, traffic and feral animals.

“The Trump administration’s dangerous denial of the climate crisis will drive the Florida Keys mole skink to extinction,” said Elise Bennett, a Center attorney dedicated to protecting rare reptiles and amphibians. “Sea-level rise driven by climate change is steadily consuming the Florida shores we love. Without federal leadership to address climate change, this lizard will be left without a place to exist.”

Adorned with a bright-pink tail, the Florida Keys mole skink lives exclusively along shorelines in the Florida Keys. It burrows in dry sand and hunts insects under leaves, debris and washed-up vegetation on beaches.

Accelerating sea-level rise and storms of increasing frequency threaten to inundate the skink’s coastal habitat, eventually leaving it no place to live. Because the animals survive in only a few populations across a small geographic area, a single major storm could wipe out the whole subspecies.

The Center petitioned to protect the Florida Keys mole skink under the Endangered Species Act in 2010. In 2015 the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded the lizard might warrant the protections of the Endangered Species Act. But in 2017 the Service ultimately denied it those protections.

Species like the skink that are at risk from climate change will now face even more difficulty getting protection. In August the Trump administration issued new regulations that dramatically weaken the Endangered Species Act by shortening how far in the future the Fish and Wildlife Service looks when considering endangered status for species, as it did with the mole skink. The changes also deny habitat protection to species threatened by the climate crisis.

“The denial of protection to the Florida Keys mole skink isn’t based on science but on a political agenda that favors corporate profits over the wellbeing of wildlife and people,” said Bennett. “The Trump administration’s head-in-the-sand approach to the climate crisis is driving these beautiful lizards and thousands of other species to extinction.”

13138scr_b60ff112f1c3e59.jpg

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.