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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes critical habitat for the endangered Florida bonneted bat

Vero Beach, Florida — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on a proposal to designate critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency is also announcing the availability of a draft economic analysis for the proposed critical habitat designation.

The ESA allows the Service to identify areas essential to the conservation of endangered or threatened species. Designating critical habitat under the ESA does not affect private landowners unless they implement an action involving federal funds, permits or activities. Additionally, it does not affect land ownership or establish a refuge, wilderness, reserve, preserve or other conservation area, nor does it allow the government or public to access private lands.

The proposed critical habitat areas cover a total of approximately 1.5 million acres located in 10 counties across South and Central Florida. The counties are Charlotte, Collier, De Soto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Sarasota.

These areas are made up of four units, which overlap with the ranges of 21 other listed species and partially overlap with areas that have already been designated as critical habitat for six other listed species. All four units are occupied and are considered essential to the conservation of the Florida bonneted bat because they provide the physical and biological features necessary for this species to survive and reproduce.

“Identifying critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat 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. “Establishing critical habitat helps raise awareness of the needs of the bat and other imperiled species, and focuses the efforts of our conservation partners.”

Florida bonneted bats are large, non-migratory, tropical bats, endemic to Central and South Florida. The species was listed as endangered in 2013 and has one of the most restricted distributions of any bat species in the western hemisphere. They can be found in forests, wetlands and other natural habitats, and have also been recorded in residential and urban areas. Their exact population size is unknown. However, estimates are in the low hundreds to low thousands, based upon expert opinion and available data.

Habitat loss and degradation due to sea-level rise, development and agriculture has impacted the species and is expected to further curtail its limited range.

The Service will accept comments regarding the proposed rule or draft economic analysis that are received or postmarked on or before August 10, 2020. Comments submitted electronically using the Federal eRulemaking Portal must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the closing date. The agency must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at the address shown below by July 27, 2020.

You may submit comments on the proposed rule or draft economic analysis by one of the following methods:

  1. Electronically: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal. In the keyword box, enter Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2019–0106, which is the docket number for this rulemaking. Then, in the search panel on the left side of the screen, under the document type heading, click on the proposed rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Comment Now!”
  2. By hard copy: Submit by U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2019–0106; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

Comments should be sent only by the methods described above. The Service will post all comments on regulations.gov. This generally means that any personal information provided may be available to the public.

Learn more about this species.

Contact

Ken Warren, Public Affairs Specialist
ken_warren@fws.gov, (772) 469-4323

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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