U.S. Wildlife Service says it’s trying to clear backlog of protection requests



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to address a backlog of animal and plant species — including four from Florida — that may be candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act, a spokeswoman for the agency said Monday.

Stacy Shelton’s comments came in response to a lawsuit filed last week in Washington, D.C., by the Center for Biological Diversity charging the wildlife service has not responded to a 2009 petition to protect the Florida Keys mole skink, Suwannee moccasinshell, Panama City crayfish, and McGillivray’s seaside sparrow. A staff biologist for the center, Tierra Curry, said the mole skink and sparrow could go extinct due to rising sea levels from global climate change while the moccasinshell and crayfish are threatened by drought, pollution and development.

“We are not ignoring them,” Shelton said. “We have a listing plan. We are triaging the list, working with the states. We see listing as a last line of defense. What we’d rather do is proactively conserve so they don’t have to be listed. We only have so many people and resources we can put on this. Our listing biologists have all the work they can handle right now.”

Shelton wrote in an email that the service’s South Florida field office is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is drafting a species action plan for the mole skink, a small colorful lizard found on sandy shorelines in the Lower Keys and Dry Tortugas.

As for the sparrow — which lives in tidal marshes from North Carolina to Northeast Florida — Shelton wrote that both the FWC and its South Carolina counterpart are studying the bird.

Shelton wrote that the fish and wildlife service has begun field work on the Suwannee moccasinshell, a small freshwater mussel that lives only in Florida’s Suwannee River. Biologists are validating locations and looking for more sites where the creature lives, “as well as trying to get a handle on the potential threats to the species,” she wrote.

The service is assessing the status of the Panama City crayfish — known only in the flatwoods and temporary ponds in a small area of Bay County — to evaluate threats to see if there is potential to warrant listing, Shelton wrote. Personnel from the Panama City field office are talking with the FWC and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about potential conservation measures.

The center, based in Portland, Ore., sued the fish and wildlife service in 2011 over a backlog of 757 species proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Under terms of a settlement agreement, the center can push forward 10 species per year for a decision.

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

Boaters and divers look for lobster off Cape Florida on Wednesday July 30, 2014.


    Ex-Penn football player dies on dive during lobster miniseason

    A Broward man lost his life diving on the first day of the lobster miniseason. He might have run out of air.

  • Fishing report

    Captain Gil Gutierrez of Lucky Fishing Charters out of TNT Marina in Keystone reported that nighttime snapper fishing on the reefs offshore of Miami has been red hot. Plenty of mangrove, mutton and yellowtail snappers are biting cut bait over the reef in depths of 25 to 60 feet of water. Captain Bill Hauck from the party boat Sea King out of Marathon reported the nighttime mangrove snapper fishing on the reef is off the chart. Nighttime snapper anglers are having no problem catching a limit of snappers, which are eating ballyhoo and threadfin herring.

  • Outdoors notebook

    Off-road vehicles such as swamp buggies, street-legal 4x4s, ATVs and UTVs will be allowed back in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Friday, marking the end of the annual 60-day recreational closure to ORV access. Only the designated primary trails in the backcountry will be open. All secondary trails will remain closed for an additional 60 days. The closure does not affect landowners’ access to private property using permitted trails. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/bicy.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category