Proposed Critical Habitat for the Endangered Florida Bonnet Bat

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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida– Following a court-ordered settlement, the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday proposed protecting nearly 1.2 million acres of critical habitat for the endangered Florida bonnet bat. The native bat faces devastating habitat loss due to climate change and urban sprawl.

“While I am pleased that the Fish and Wildlife Service is taking action to protect more than one million acres of critical habitat for the Florida bonnet bat, it has excluded crucial areas threatened by immediate development,” said Ragan Whitlock, a Florida-based attorney. In the center. “We hope the Service will revise the final designation to accurately reflect all of the areas these lovely bats need to recover.”

Although the proposal recognizes that bats and their habitat are threatened by climate change and sea level rise, the Service has not extended much-needed protections for unoccupied critical habitat.

The proposal also excludes ‘man-made structures’ in areas known to be used by the bat, which is contrary to available scientific data showing that several bat populations depend on bat boxes and bat areas. urban food to survive.

“While we welcome the Service’s new critical habitat designation, we are surprised by some of the proposed limitations on areas that have experienced human disturbance,” said Dennis Olle, president of the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. “Specifically, we are disappointed with the exclusion of certain disturbed or otherwise human-modified areas that are clearly important to the survival of the Florida bonnet bat. The Service’s failure to understand this shows a lack surprising confidence in good science.

“We are pleased to see that the Service has finally published the proposed critical habitat and included additional areas where we know the bat resides, such as the Corkscrew and Kissimmee Units,” said Lauren Jonaitis, director of conservation for the bat. the Tropical Audubon Society. “However, we are still very concerned that the Service has not included unoccupied critical habitat to address habitat loss due to sea level rise and range changes. as the climate changes.”

“Having already undergone major revisions, we expected a more complete and accurate proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service that truly represents all of the habitat that the Florida bonnet bat depends on for survival,” said Jon Flanders. , Ph.D., Director of Endangered Species Response at Bat Conservation International. “Completely dismissing the importance of urban populations and their habitat requirements is a massive setback to the recovery of the species.”

The development and use of pesticides nearly wiped out Florida’s hooded bats before a lawsuit filed by the Center forced the Service to protect the bat in 2013 under the Species Act endangered. Conservation groups took legal action again in 2018 and again this year to ensure the species’ habitat is protected.

Animals whose critical habitat is federally protected are more than twice as likely to head towards recovery as species without such protections. Federal agencies that fund or authorize projects in critical habitat are required to consult with the Service to ensure that such habitat is not damaged or destroyed by their actions.

Background

Named after the large ears that hang down from their foreheads, bonnet bats are the largest of Florida’s 13 bat species and the second largest in North America. Bats roost in old tree cavities and man-made structures and feed on insects in dark open spaces. They also use one of the lowest frequency echolocation calls of all bats, so some people are actually able to hear the birdlike chirps of bonnet bats when they hunt insects.

Florida bonnet bats have one of the smallest ranges of any bat species. They only live in South Florida, an area highly susceptible to sea level rise, the impacts of major storms, and development. Projections indicate that sea levels will rise between 3 and 6 feet across much of bat habitat this century.

This week’s Fish and Wildlife Service proposal follows a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Tropical Audubon Society and the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association.

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