WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it is proposing the Miami tiger beetle, once considered extinct, for protection as an endangered species. If the proposal, expected to publish on Tuesday, is finalized, the beetle will join five other species from the shrinking pine rocklands habitat in Florida that have been listed under the Endangered Species Act over the past couple of years, including the Florida bonneted bat, two plants and two butterflies.
The beetle was believed to be extinct until 2007, when it was once again discovered near Zoo Miami. It is found in only two small pine rocklands habitats separated by urban development, according to the agency.
“The Miami tiger beetle is in trouble because it has only survived in increasingly rare urban pine rockland habitat,” Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director, said. “Its remaining habitat faces huge urban development pressures.”
In December 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association, South Florida Wildlands Association, Tropical Audubon Society, and others petitioned the Service for an emergency endangered species listing with designated critical habitat for the beetle, due to the planned strip mall and theme park development projects, Coral Reef Commons and Miami Wilds.
The agency said a decision on whether to propose a critical habitat designation is not expected until next fall.
Nearly 98 percent of the historical pine rockland habitat in Miami-Dade County has been destroyed due to development, vegetation encroachment and climate change, according to the Service’s announcement.
The shiny green beetle may also face theats from collectors, and the Service is requesting comments on that and other aspects of the proposal both in a 60-day comment period, and in a public hearing in January.
If the beetle is listed as endangered, private-sector businesses would be encouraged to work with the agency to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan, with the aim of minimizing impacts on the beetles while still allowing some types of development if adequate conservation measues are included, the agency said.
“Watching the Miami tiger beetle forage, with its shiny, iridescent body and lightning-quick legs, is mesmerizing,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the CBD said. “Endangered Species Act protection will help ensure the beetle’s rare pine rockland hunting grounds remain intact in the face of ever-pressing development.”
Comments are due Feb. 22, 2016, and a public hearing will be held Jan. 13 in Miami, with an informal information session preceding it.
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