Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 22, 2018

Contact:  Rachael Curran, (727) 537-0802,
Jaeson Clayborn, (216) 287-1825

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Critical Habitat for Endangered Florida Bonneted Bats

Species Is Highly Vulnerable to Sea-level Rise

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— Conservation groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today to protect critical habitat for endangered Florida bonneted bats. On the brink of extinction, the bat has been devastated by habitat loss to urban and agricultural sprawl and now faces the new threat of climate change driven sea-level rise.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., notes that the bats — named for the large ears that fold skin over their eyes like a bonnet — received Endangered Species Act protection in 2013. But the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to designate lifesaving critical habitat as required.

“We can’t save Florida bonneted bats without protecting the places where they live and forage,” said Rachael Curran, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney based in Florida. “If these bats are to have any chance at surviving sea-level rise, federal wildlife officials need to protect their remaining habitat now.”

Florida bonneted bats — the state’s largest and most endangered — roost in old tree cavities and artificial structures and forage for insects over open spaces like wetlands and fresh water.

At the time of its listing as endangered, there were approximately 26 colonies of Florida bonneted bats located in 11 different roost sites in a very narrow range of southern and southwestern Florida. Up to six feet of sea-level rise are expected by the end of the century in this area; that would flood nine of these last 11 roost sites.

“Protecting Florida bonneted bat habitat will also protect habitat for a host of other imperiled species, including threatened butterflies, moths, and skippers,” said Jaeson Clayborn, president of the North American Butterfly Association’s Miami Blue Chapter.

Protection of critical habitat for Florida bonneted bats will require anyone conducting a federally funded or permitted project in the bat’s designated critical habitat to consult with the Service to ensure that the habitat would not be “adversely modified,” i.e., damaged. According to a Center study, species with federally protected critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be moving toward recovery as species without it.

Learn more about the Florida bonneted bat.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Tropical Audubon Society and the North American Butterfly Association’s Miami Blue Chapter filed today’s suit.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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