ST. PETERSBURG, Florida– Conservation groups informed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today that they intend to sue the agency for failing to timely designate rescue critical habitat for the endangered Miami Tiger Beetle. disappearance.
The proposed critical habitat includes areas of Miami’s Richmond Pine Rocklands, which are imminently threatened by development.
“Miami’s tiger beetles can’t wait any longer for critical habitat,” said Ragan Whitlock, attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “They live in one of the most endangered habitats in North America, which will continue to be rapidly destroyed by development unless the Service protects their home.”
The Miami Tiger Beetle occurs in a very restricted range and is currently only known from two populations separated by urban development.
“The Service’s continued delay in identifying the beetle’s critical habitat continues to jeopardize the species’ likelihood of survival,” said Dennis Olle, president of the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. “There is no excuse for this, especially since this inaction runs counter to the Service’s statutory and ethical duties.”
“Miami is home to one of the rarest tiger beetles in the United States,” said Lauren Jonaitis, director of conservation for the Tropical Audubon Society. “Equally remarkable, the species is endemic to the Miami-Dade Pine Rocklands, a globally unique critically endangered habitat south of Florida. The Miami tiger beetle and pine stands are in dire need of saving. The quickest and most effective way to do this is to designate critical habitat for our local beetle – a designation that is long overdue.
In response to a petition from the Center in 2014, the Service listed the beetle as endangered in 2016, but did not simultaneously designate critical habitat as required by the Endangered Species Act. Following litigation from the Center, the Service ultimately proposed critical habitat for the beetle in 2021 but failed to finalize protections.
The Center filed the 2014 petition after learning that an area known as Richmond Pine Rocklands in South Miami was under immediate threat from proposed shopping malls and a water park. It was in this area that the beetle was rediscovered in 2007, six decades after its initial discovery. Pine rock gardens contain the vast majority and largest block of remaining habitat for the beetle, along with several other endangered species. The mall has since been built, but not the water park, which would be adjacent to Zoo Miami.
The Miami tiger beetle is beautifully gem-like, with an emerald sheen. It owes its name to its aggressive and predatory behavior and its strong mandibles. Its proposed critical habitat largely overlaps with critical habitat identified for Carter’s Small-flowered Flax, Florida Brickellin, Bartram’s Hairstreak, and Florida Leafwing.
Animals with federally protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be headed for recovery as species without. Federal agencies funding or authorizing projects in critical habitat should consult with the Service to ensure that the habitat is not adversely altered.