A coalition of South Florida environmental groups say the U.S. Wildlife Service has Okayed development plans on what they call one of the last forested tracts of land in Palm Beach County. The 700 acre plot of land in question is currently home to a diverse range of Florida animals including the eastern Indigo—a type of snake that the Wildlife Service has classified as a “threatened species.” Environmentalists say in approving the development of the land, the U.S. Wildlife Service is in violation of its own Endangered Species Act But, spokesman for the South Florida Office of the Wildlife Service, Ken Warren argued the development doesn’t present a threat to the entire species.
“In that biological opinion which came out in March of 2011, we concluded that the project as it was proposed was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Eastern Indigo Snakes as a whole. And that’s the way we have to look at those things by law - as a whole not just a proportion of the population but, the population as a whole,” Warren said.
Officials estimate less than ten Indigo snakes actually call the 700 acre tract of land home. But, South Florida Wildlands Association Director Matthew Schwartz asserted that any time a wildlife habitat gets developed, it has the potential to hurt more than just the animals living there at the time.
“The reason why Eastern Indigo Snakes are listed under the Endangered Species Act is from loss of habitat and that’s most of the problem for Florida’s wildlife. So, if each piece of land that provides habitat for these species is looked at as insignificant because it’s just not big enough, then eventually what happens is we don’t have wildlife in Florida,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz’s group joined other environmental organizations to send a letter to the U.S. Wildlife Service Wednesday expressing their concerns with the new Palm Beach County development. The Wildlife Service says it’s currently reviewing Schwartz’s case.