The Center for Biological Diversity on Monday filed a formal notice of its intent to sue the Trump administration for denying protection to the Florida Keys mole skink under the Endangered Species Act, according to a news release.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied the skink protection in October despite threats from flooding caused by rising seas, which are expected to inundate nearly half the lizard’s coastal habitat and underground burrows by 2060, the Tuscon, Ariz.,-based national environmental group said in a prepared statement. Along with climate change, the animal is also threatened by development in the Keys, the center says.
“Without help, the Florida Keys mole skink is definitely headed for extinction,” said Elise Bennett, a center attorney. “This little lizard’s only home, the Florida Keys’ sandy coast, is being submerged by rising seas and battered by increasingly intense storms. If we don’t curb greenhouse gas pollution, this lizard and so many other plants and animals will be lost forever.”
The center petitioned for protection of the Florida Keys mole skink in 2010. In 2015 the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a p90-day finding, concluding the skink might warrant the Endangered Species Act’s protections. A court-ordered settlement of a lawsuit filed by the center required FWS to make a decision on whether to protect the skink by Sept. 30, 2017.
The skink is a small, shiny, brown lizard with a bright pink tail that lives exclusively on a few islands along narrow strips of shoreline. It digs burrows in the sandy soil to protect its eggs and hunts insect prey under leaves, debris and washed-up vegetation called tidal wrack.
“These lizards are struggling to survive on a sinking lifeboat,” Bennett said. “We have a responsibility to rescue them before they’re drowned by rising seas. The center will fight to overturn this unscientific, irresponsible denial and salvage the future for these exquisite little animals.”
The Center for Biological Diversity describes itself thusly: “Wwe believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction.”