If you live in the Florida Keys and are concerned about the long-term health of the Key deer population there, heads-up.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is holding a public meeting on Thursday August 22 specifically to talk about the federal status of the Key deer in light of recent changes to the Endangered Species Act.
It is at 6 PM at the Marathon Key Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway, Marathon.
According to the press release, “The purpose of the meeting is to share information about Key deer recovery and a possible change in the listing status of this iconic species.”
We’d like to think that the species has recovered, but there are a lot of reasons why it might not be.
There are less than a thousand Key deer in the world. All of them live in the Lower Keys. They are under assault from several directions. Motorists speeding along US 1 kill more than 150 deer a year. A recent epidemic of screwworm killed more than 130 deer.
Hurricane Irma swept a storm surge across the islands, destroying habitat and forage while also killing deer. It’s thought more than 200 died.
But it is politics, not an drop in their numbers, that could be a threat for the first time since the 1940s.
Recent changes to the Endangered Species Act make it easier for wildlife species to be dropped from protected status.
Finalized on August 12, sweeping changes to the 1973 Endangered Species Act now make it possible to remove species from protection to “ease the burden of regulations” on industry and landowners.
The “economic impact” of a species being listed can now be taken into consideration. We fear that in Florida, that impact includes the value of the land they are occupying.
Land is worth a lot in the Keys.
Dozens of news stories have hit papers in Florida and around the country decrying the possibility of removing endangered species status from the Key deer. When a species is gone, it’s gone. Dropping Federal protection for Key deer makes zero sense.
In a state overrun for both invasive species and development, the fact that the idea is even being discussed is troubling.
Discussions on delisting the Key deer have been bubbling along in the background for more than a year. See this commentary.
If you can be at the meeting, go. According to information shared by the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex:
“…the decision to change the federal status of Key deer pursuant to the Act has not been made…The Service will gather input from the public to inform decision making…”
Whoever speaks will be heard.
If you can’t be there in person, give the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service your input. Florida needs to stand by our endangered species.
A webinar of this session may be available. Contact 772-643-4407 or email Ken Warren to arrange to connect.
The Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex can be reached at 305-872-2239 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. They are on Facebook as well.