ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a formal notice today of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the agency’s failure to designate critical habitat for eight Florida plants, including one called the Everglades bully and a flowering shrub found only in the lower Florida Keys.
The species named in today’s notice are the Big Pine partridge pea, Blodgett’s wild mercury, sand flax, wedge spurge, Everglades bully, Florida pineland crabgrass, Florida prairie-clover and pineland sandmat.
The Center previously sued the Service to protect these plants, several of which had been waiting decades for protection. As a result of a historic settlement agreement with the Obama administration, they were listed in 2017 and 2018, meaning that protection of critical habitat is now years overdue.
“Florida’s plants play a vital role in sustaining Florida’s biodiversity and beauty,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center. “Federally designated critical habitat will help these plants rebound.”
With only 25 species protected as threatened or endangered, delay and denial of habitat protections and significant regulatory rollbacks, the Trump administration has the worst record protecting species of any administration since Congress passed the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act prohibits federal agencies from authorizing activities that will destroy or harm a listed species’ critical habitat. Species with federally protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be recovering as species without it.
“Habitat loss is the biggest cause of extinction,” said Lopez. “We’re not going to be able to save these remarkable native plants without protecting the places they live.”
Earlier this year the Center filed suit in Washington, D.C. over more than 200 species from the workplan that await decisions. In addition to the eight species included in today’s notice, the Center plans to initiate lawsuits for another 20 species waiting for listing and 81 species waiting for designation of critical habitat and hopes to work out a schedule with the Biden administration to ensure these species from across the country get protection and avoid extinction.
The Center filed a separate notice yesterday of its intent to sue outgoing Interior Secretary David Bernhardt for delaying protection for 11 species, including the monarch butterfly and northern spotted owl, that have been identified as warranting endangered status but placed on a candidate list instead.
Big Pine partridge pea: The Big Pine partridge pea is a small shrub with five-petal, yellow flowers and pea-shaped fruit. It is found only in the pine rocklands of the lower Florida Keys, historically Big Pine Key, No Name Key, Ramrod Key, Cudjoe Key and Sugarloaf Key. The plant is now only found on Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key.
Wedge spurge: The wedge spurge is a small, perennial herb with slender stems and a silvery appearance. It occurs in pine rocklands and roadsides on Big Pine Key, where its population is declining.
Sand flax: The sand flax is a small, perennial herb with yellow, buttercup-looking flowers. It is found in pine rocklands in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties, and its populations are declining.
Blodgett’s silverbush: The Blodgett’s silverbush is a woody shrub with small, green flowers. It grows in the pine rocklands of Monroe and Miami-Dade counties, but has become increasingly rare.
Everglades bully: The Everglades bully had been a candidate for protection since 2004. The shrub is native to Miami-Dade County and is only found in pine rocklands.
Florida pineland crabgrass: The Florida pineland crabgrass is also known as Everglades grass or twospike crabgrass, and only occurs in the Everglades in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. It was first identified as needing endangered species protection in 1975; the Center petitioned the Service to protect it in 2004.
Florida prairie clover: The Florida prairie clover had been waiting on the agency’s candidate list for federal protection since 1999. It’s a member of the pea family and grows up to 6 feet tall in pine rocklands and coastal uplands.
Pinelands sandmat: The Pinelands sandmat had been a candidate for protection since 1999. Also known as the pineland deltoid spurge, rockland spurge and wedge sandmat, it’s a beautiful perennial herb with a red stem and delicate, yellow flowers.