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Bonneted Bat Critical Habitat & New Conservation Funding

April 15, 2024
florida bonneted bat by shalana gray

Image by Shalana Gray

Two recent environmental wins in Florida include new critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat and a bill that allots $400 million allotted toward various statewide water quality, resiliency, and conservation efforts.

Florida Bonneted Bat Granted 1.1 Million Acres of Critical Habitat

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) designated 1.1 million acres of critical habitat for the Florida bonneted bat, Eumops floridanus, one of the largest and rarest bat species in North America.

Florida bonneted bats are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and the new critical habitat designation will provide further protections not only for the animal, but for lands that contain the habitat necessary for its survival.

“The Bonneted bat is under threat from the rampant development across Florida that can result in the loss of the mature pine and cypress trees that are necessary for these bats to roost,” said SCCF Environmental Policy Director Matt DePaolis. “Establishing critical habitat is a critical tool when we are fighting to save listed species from extinction.”

This specific critical habitat designation was the result of a 2022 lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, Tropical Audubon Society, and the Miami Blue Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association against a proposed theme park development next to Zoo Miami.  

The Florida bonneted bat has one of the most limited ranges of any bat species in the western hemisphere according to the USFWS, and they are at further threats from sea-level rise, development, and agriculture. While no Florida bonneted bats have been observed on Sanibel, SCCF is currently establishing a monitoring regimen around Lee County to determine where individuals may be.

Governor Signs Gambling Revenue Bill for Conservation

On April 4, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed SB 1638 – Funding for Environmental Resource Management into law. This bill earmarks funding from the Seminole Tribe Gaming Compact for conservation efforts within the state. The law will allow approximately $400 million to be spent on conservation efforts. The Florida Senate described the allocations from the bill as:

“This bill signifies a massive amount of funding being spent on conservation efforts,” DePaolis said. “If used correctly, it could help protect Florida’s remaining wild spaces.”



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