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A leafy green vine like plant growing on a rock face.
Information icon Florida bristle fern. Photo by Keith Bradley.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes Critical Habitat for the endangered Florida bristle fern

Members of the public invited to participate in 60-day public comment period

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today proposed to designate critical habitat for the rare Florida bristle fern under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service listed the Florida bristle fern, a plant found only in Miami-Dade and Sumter counties in Florida, as endangered in 2015. The Service also announced availability of a draft economic analysis on the proposed critical habitat designation. The public is invited to submit comments on the, critical habitat designation and draft economic analysis during a 60-day comment period ending April 24, 2020.

The Florida bristle fern is a small, mat-forming plant. In Miami-Dade County, South Florida, the fern is found in four known populations in rockland hammocks, all on county-managed conservation lands (Castellow, Hattie Bauer, Fuchs and Meissner hammocks). In Sumter County, Central Florida, only two populations occur, both in small hammocks on state-owned land in the Jumper Creek Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest. Habitat modification and destruction caused by urban development, agricultural conversion, regional drainage and canal installation are the main threats to the Florida bristle fern.

The ESA requires, where possible, the Service to identify areas essential to the conservation of endangered or threatened species, which it terms critical habitat. In addition to helping safeguard healthy populations of Florida bristle fern, establishing critical habitat also helps to raise awareness among landowners and the public about the needs of this plant, and helps focus the efforts of our conservation partners.

“Identifying critical habitat for the Florida bristle fern will help the Service and our partners in Florida build upon the conservation work that is already under way,” said Service Regional Director Leo Miranda. “Much work remains to be done, however, to save this rare plant.”

The designation of critical habitat on private land has no impact on individual landowner activities unless they also involve activities by a federal agency or require federal funding or permits. Critical habitat designations do not affect land ownership or establish a wildlife refuge, reserve, preserve or other conservation area, nor does it allow the government or public to access private lands.

The Service considered whether the proposed designation would result in significant economic impacts to local small businesses and determined that it would not. About 98 percent of the proposed critical habitat belongs to federal, state and county governments. The proposed critical habitat areas cover a total of 4,014 acres located in Miami-Dade and Sumter counties. The proposed Miami-Dade designation is composed of seven parcels totaling approximately 334 acres. The Florida bristle fern currently occupies three of the parcels. The central Florida proposed designation consists of one occupied parcel and one unoccupied parcel, totaling about 3,680 acres.

All of the occupied parcels are considered essential to Florida bristle fern conservation because they contain the physical and biological features necessary for this plant to survive and reproduce. The unoccupied parcels are considered essential for Florida bristle fern conservation because they provide areas of suitable habitat to increase distribution and additional Florida bristle fern populations across the species’ historical range.

The Service will accept public comments on the proposed rule and draft economic analysis through April 24, 2020. Requests for public hearings must be made in writing to the address shown below by April 9. Comments may be submitted electronically at regulations.gov by searching under document number FWS–R4–ES–2019–0068 and clicking on the ‘comment now’ button. The Federal Register notice provides information on how to comment by other means.

Supporting documents and the draft economic analysis are available on the field station website, or regulations.gov (Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2019–0068) and at the South Florida Ecological Services Field Office, 1339 20th Street Vero Beach, Florida 32960-3559.

Contact

Ken Warren, public affairs specialist
ken_warren@fws.gov, (727) 562-3909 x 323

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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