Tiny Deer Gravely Imperiled by Urban Sprawl, Sea-level Rise, Hurricanes
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— President Donald Trump’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to strip Endangered Species Act protection from Florida Key deer despite severe and increasing threats from sea-level rise, disease, hurricanes and urban sprawl. A letter from the agency revealed that it intends to delist the Key deer.
The protection removal is likely responding to a directive from Leopoldo Miranda, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast regional director and a Trump appointee. In 2017 Miranda ordered staff to remove or avoid protections for 30 species per year.
“Stripping the Key deer of protections to meet an arbitrary quota is like kicking a critically ill patient out of the emergency room to free up bed space,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Refusing to protect imperiled animals because of a weird numbers game utterly contradicts the Endangered Species Act’s purpose. It puts the Florida Key deer and many other species at risk of extinction.”
Spectacularly misnamed the “Wildly Important Goal,” Miranda’s directive comes as the Southeast has a backlog of hundreds of species waiting for protection. The region is on the leading edge of North America’s extinction crisis.
“Instead of taking the urgent action needed to address the climate crisis and prevent the extinctions that will otherwise result from it, the Trump administration is cynically gutting Endangered Species Act protections for the Florida Key deer and other species by changing the rules to make it easier to dodge the ESA’s requirements,” said Karimah Schoenhut, a staff attorney at the Sierra Club.
Seventy-six percent of Key deer habitat is less than 2 feet above sea level. Studies project that most of the Florida Keys will be inundated or drastically altered by the 2 feet of sea-level rise expected by 2050.
The species also faces a disease known as the “New World screwworm,” which has killed at least 135 deer since 2016. Hurricane Irma killed more than 200 deer, and the climate crisis is making hurricanes more destructive.
“The future of this sweet little deer just became far less secure,” said Lopez. “There’s no rational explanation for stripping Endangered Species Act protection from these animals beyond the Trump administration’s hostility to protecting any and all imperiled wildlife.”
Trump has protected fewer plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act than any president, despite the increasing number of species at risk of extinction. Earlier this week the administration enacted regulations that significantly weaken the Act by making it more difficult to protect species, diluting the protections for listed species and disregarding the threat of climate change.
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.