SAVING THE FLORIDA BONNETED BAT
Bats, those unique and magnificent mammals of the air, might be the last creatures you'd associate with the deep, vast ocean. But as that ocean becomes ever deeper and vaster through accelerating sea-level rise — caused by climate change rapidly melting our planet's ice caps and warming waters — some bats are in imminent danger from seawater creeping over their terrestrial habitat, which is already prime fodder for development and other destructive human activities.
Those bats are Florida bonneted bats.
Florida's largest bats, these unique creatures get their common name from the broad ears that extend over their foreheads like bonnets. Previously known as Wagner's or Florida mastiff bats, these bats were reclassified as a separate species unique to Florida — and they'd be lost if their home state became inundated with the encroaching sea. On a regional level, sea-level rise projections for South Florida in the range of the bonneted bat indicate that sea-level rise between 3 and 6 feet is highly likely within this century.
To make sure that doesn't happen, the Florida bonneted bat — and its habitat — need the maximum amount of protection possible under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
After years of foot-dragging and a landmark settlement agreement with the Center, in 2013 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted Florida bonneted bats endangered status under the Act. And finally, after many more years and a Center lawsuit, in 2020 the Service proposed to grant them the federally protected critical habitat they so urgently need: 1.5 million acres in 10 South Florida counties.