USFWS Must Reconsider Endangered Species Act Protections For The Florida Keys Mole Skink

The Florida Keys mole skink lives just 20 to 31 inches above sea level.

In 2017, the Trump Administration denied Endangered Species Act protections for the Florida Keys mole skink, (Plestiodon e. gregius), a coastal subspecies of mole skink that the Center for Biological Diversity says is threatened by the rise in sea levels caused by climate change. At the time of the 2017 decision, the Center says the administration only looked at a 30 to 40 year habitat timeframe rather than available projections that put the loss of habitat for this lizard at 100 percent by the end of the century. The Florida Keys mole skink lives just 20 to 31 inches above sea level.

“USFWS ultimately relied solely on Geoplan for the more specific purpose of estimating habitat loss to inundation, and the question is whether that choice was adequately explained. The court concludes that it was not,” U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg wrote in her ruling.


The Florida Keys mole skink lives just 20 to 31 inches above sea level. Photo by USFWS.

Judge Rosenberg found the USFWS did not have an adequate justification for using the outdated sea-level-rise projections and must reexamine its data. The more accurate projections, the Center says, shows a 15 percent higher sea-level rise than previously predicted.

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Florida Keys Mole Skink Denied Endangered Species Act Protection

“It’s a relief that the Florida Keys mole skink still has a fair shot at Endangered Species Act safeguards,” Elise Bennett, an attorney at the Center said in a statement released to the media. “This rare little lizard, like many other Keys species, is fighting desperately to survive as rising sea levels flood its last remaining habitat. It needs federal protection from this very real threat to have any chance at survival,” Bennett said.
The Florida Keys mole skink is a small lizard with brownish coloration with a red to brown tail with slight black stripes. Its scales are smooth and shiny. Its legs are small and fully developed and it can grow to around 5 inches in length, including the tail. It can be found along the shoreline of the Dry Tortugas and the Lower Keys. Its population has declined by 30 percent, the Center says, and is now considered rare.

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