Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 28, 2018

Contact: Elise Bennett, (727) 755-6950,

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Rare Florida Lizard Threatened by Sea-level Rise

Five-year Delay Increases Cedar Key Mole Skink's Extinction Risk

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect the Cedar Key mole skink under the Endangered Species Act.

The skink, a smooth-scaled lizard with stubby arms and legs, is threatened by coastal development and climate change-driven sea-level rise. It is found only on Cedar Key and nearby islands off Florida’s Nature Coast.

“This rare lizard can’t wait any longer for endangered species protections,” said Elise Bennett, a Center staff attorney dedicated to protecting imperiled reptiles and amphibians. “The remaining populations of Cedar Key mole skink are on track to blink out of existence as coastal development destroys habitat and shorelines are lost to the sea. But the Endangered Species Act could ensure the lizard’s survival.”

The Center petitioned to protect the Cedar Key mole skink under the Endangered Species Act in 2012. In 2015 the Service found that protecting the skink may be warranted. The agency was required to make a decision about whether to protect it within one year of the Center’s petition, making this crucial decision five years overdue.

Long delays in protecting species under the Act have been a persistent problem for decades. At least 42 species have gone extinct awaiting protection. A recent peer-reviewed study found that, on average, species waited 12 years for protection during the Act’s 40-plus year history.

In 2016 the Service developed a National Listing Workplan intended to prioritize its own workload based on the needs of candidate and petitioned species. According to this workplan, the Cedar Key mole skink should have received a 12-month finding determining whether it would receive protections by the end of fiscal year 2017. This decision has not been made.

“The Cedar Key mole skink’s future looks bleak, but the Endangered Species Act is a proven bastion of protection for imperiled species great and small,” Bennett said. “Taking bold action to protect Cedar Key’s unique pink-tailed lizard and address climate change and sea-level rise will ensure a better world for us all.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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