For Immediate Release, September 8, 2022
Ragan Whitlock, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 426-3653, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Critical Habitat for Rare South Florida Beetle
Miami Tiger Beetle Threatened by Development, Sea-Level Rise
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— Conservation groups notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today that they intend to sue over the agency’s failure to make a timely designation of lifesaving critical habitat for the endangered Miami tiger beetle.
Proposed critical habitat includes areas in Miami’s Richmond Pine Rocklands, which are under imminent threat from development.
“Miami tiger beetles can’t wait any longer for critical habitat,” said Ragan Whitlock, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “They live in one of North America’s most endangered habitats, which will continue to be lost rapidly to development unless the Service protects their home.”
The Miami tiger beetle is found in a very limited range and is currently known to occur in only two populations separated by urban development.
“The Service’s continued delay in designating critical habitat for the beetle continues to compromise the likelihood of the species’ survival,” said Dennis Olle, president of the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. “There is no excuse for this, especially given the fact that this inaction goes against the Service’s statutory and ethical duties.”
“Miami is home to one of the rarest tiger beetles in the U.S.,” said Tropical Audubon Society’s conservation director Lauren Jonaitis. “Just as remarkable, the species is endemic to Miami-Dade's Pine Rocklands, a globally critically imperiled habitat unique to South Florida. Both the Miami tiger beetle and the pine rocklands are in urgent need of saving. The most expeditious, effective way to accomplish that is to designate critical habitat for our local beetle — a designation that's long overdue.”
In response to a Center petition in 2014, the Service listed the beetle as endangered in 2016 but did not concurrently designate critical habitat as required by the Endangered Species Act. Following litigation by the Center, the Service finally proposed critical habitat for the beetle in 2021 but 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.
Animals 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.
The Miami Blue Chapter serves southeastern Florida, specifically Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. We are a membership based, not-for-profit organization working to increase the public enjoyment and conservation of butterflies. The Chapter is named after one of the rarest butterflies in North America, which used to (and one day will again) call Miami home.
Tropical Audubon Society is a science- and solutions-based nonprofit conservation organization driven by its grassroots community and principles of equity, diversity and inclusion. Tropical Audubon’s Legacy is to protect, conserve and restore South Florida ecosystems by working closely with local governments and other stakeholders, and by fostering wise stewardship of native habitats, birds and other indigenous wildlife.