U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Extends Comment Periods on Proposed Actions for 11 Florida Species

Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Extends Comment Periods on Proposed Actions for 11 Florida Species
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it is extending the current comment periods on proposed actions for 11 Florida species including eight plants, two snakes, and a skink. 

Due to the impacts of Hurricane Ian on Florida, the ongoing comment periods for each of these plants and reptiles will be extended until January 12, 2023. All comments must be received or postmarked by that date. The public is invited to submit any scientific information pertinent to any of these proposed actions. Comments already submitted for any of these proposed actions do not need to be resubmitted, and they will be considered in the final decisions for these species. 

Florida Keys mole skink 

On September 27, 2022, the Service published a proposed rule to list the Florida Keys mole skink as a threatened species with a rule issued under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate its critical habitat. The mole skink reaches up to five inches and has a slim, tan body and brightly tinted pinkish-red tail. Threats to the skink’s survival include sea level rise, coastal erosion, and severe storms. The Service is proposing to designate 7,067 acres of habitat for the Florida Keys mole skink, which includes 545 acres outside the areas it now inhabits to accommodate for habitat loss within the next 20 years from sea level rise. Most of the acres proposed, 84 percent, are already designated critical habitat for other species listed under the ESA including the American crocodile, Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly, Cape Sable thoroughwort, Florida leafwing butterfly, Florida semaphore cactus, loggerhead sea turtle, and piping plover. Along with critical habitat the Service is proposing a 4d rule as provided under the ESA. The rule tailors take prohibitions for the conservation of the species. This targeted approach helps reduce regulatory burdens by allowing specific activities that do not significantly harm the species, or are beneficial, while focusing conservation efforts on the threats to recovery. For more information see https://www.fws.gov/story/2022-09/florida-keys-mole-skink.   

Four Florida Keys plants       

On October 14, 2022, the Service published proposed rules to designate critical habitat for Big Pine partridge pea, wedge spurge, sand flax, and Blodgett’s silverbush. These plants are found in the Keys in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties. On September 29, 2016, Big Pine partridge pea, wedge spurge, and sand flax were federally listed as endangered, and Blodgett’s silverbush was federally listed as threatened primarily due to habitat loss and degradation. Other threats to these plants are fire suppression, mowing, and competition with nonnative species. Most of these plants proposed critical habitat designations overlap with existing designations for other Keys species. For more information about these plants’ critical habitat designations, please see https://www.fws.gov/story/2022-10/faq-proposed-critical-habitat-4-florida-keys-plants

Four Florida Everglades plants 

Also on October 14, 2022, the Service published proposed rules to designate critical habitat for Everglades bully, Florida pineland crabgrass, pineland sandmat, and Florida prairie-clover. At least 86 percent of the proposed critical habitat for each plant occurs on federal lands. Located in Monroe, Collier, and Miami-Dade Counties, the plants received federal protection under the Endangered Species Act on October 6, 2017. Florida pineland crabgrass, pineland sandmat and Everglades bully are listed as threatened, and Florida prairie-clover is listed as endangered. These plants have strongholds in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, with smaller areas of occurrence in Miami-Dade County. Habitat loss and degradation are eliminating the natural communities that sustain these plants. Additional threats include lack of adequate fire management, sea level rise, maintenance practices used on disturbed sites, and competition with nonnative species. For more information concerning the critical habitat designations for these plants, see https://www.fws.gov/story/2022-10/faq-proposed-critical-habitat-4-everglades-plants

Two South Florida snakes 

On October 14, 2022, the Service published a proposed rule to list the Key ring-necked snake and the rim rock crowned snake with critical habitat for both species. An adult Key ring-necked snake is 6- to 10-inches long with a grayish-black back, bright yellow and red underside, and an indistinct or absent neck ring. Individuals have been recorded on seven lower Florida Keys: Key West, Big Pine Key, Little Torch Key, Middle Torch Key, No Name Key, Cudjoe Key, and Stock Island. Habitat degradation associated with urbanization and fire suppression of pine rocklands is continuing to decrease the quality of remaining habitat for the Key ring-necked snake. Effects associated with climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

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, such as the magnitude of severe storms, sea level rise, and saltwater intrusion, threaten the snake’s survival. The rim rock crowned snake is also a small snake of 7- to 9-inches with a black cap, a tan to beige back, and a pinkish white to cream belly. The snake is found in the lower Florida Keys, including Key West and Big Pine Key; the upper Florida Keys; and the southeastern Florida peninsula within Miami-Dade County. Populations in Miami-Dade County are currently stable; however, populations of the rim rock crowned snake in the Florida Keys are in danger of extinction. The rim rock crowned snake faces the same threats as Key ring-necked snake. For more information, see https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/36d130dae91a42f3b469fa9711245fdc and https://www.fws.gov/story/2022-10/key-ring-necked-snake-rim-rock-crowned-snake

To obtain copies of the proposed rules for these 11 species, go to https://www.regulations.gov under the appropriate docket number. 

Proposed rule title 

Federal Register citation 

Docket No. 

Florida Keys Mole Skink Threatened Species Status and Critical Habitat Designation 

87 FR 58648; September 27, 2022 


Big Pine Partridge Pea, Wedge Spurge, Sand Flax, and Blodgett’s Silverbush Critical Habitat Designation 

87 FR 62502; October 14, 2022 


Everglades Bully, Florida Pineland Crabgrass, Pineland Sandmat, and Florida Prairie-Clover Critical Habitat Designation 

87 FR 62564; October 14, 2022 


Key Ring-Necked Snake and Rim Rock Crowned Snake Endangered Species Status and Critical Habitat Designation 

87 FR 62614; October 14, 2022 


Written comments may be submitted by one of the following methods: 

    (1) Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter the appropriate docket number. Then, click on the Search button. On the resulting page, in the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, check the Proposed Rule box to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment.” Please ensure you have found the correct document before submitting your comments. If your comments will fit in the provided comment box, please use this feature of https://www.regulations.gov, as it is most compatible with our comment review procedures. If you attach your comments as a separate document, our preferred file format is Microsoft Word. If you attach multiple comments (such as form letters), our preferred format is a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. 

         (2) By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [Insert appropriate docket number.], U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803. 

The Service will post all comments on https://www.regulations.gov

For more information contact Lourdes Mena, Division Manager, Classification and Recovery, Florida Ecological Services Field Office, 7915 Baymeadows Way, Suite 200, Jacksonville, FL 32256–7517; lourdes_mena@fws.gov; telephone 904–731–3134. Individuals in the United States who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability may dial 711 (TTY, TDD, or TeleBraille) to access telecommunications relay services. 

Story Tags

Endangered and/or Threatened species