Trump Administration to Strip Florida Key Deer of Federal Protection
The federal government is proposing to strip the tiny Key deer of its endangered species status despite what environmentalists say are continuing threats to the animal due to development in the Florida Keys, its only known habitat.
The deer is America’s smallest. They grow to about 30 inches at the shoulder, and has become a tourist attraction in the Keys. Its numbers are currently estimated at about 600, up from as low as a couple dozen in the 1950s.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says its studies show there are no more significant threats to the deer. They have set a public forum on Aug. 22 on removing the deer from the Endangered Species List.
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.
Environmental groups say stripping the deer of endangered status would leave it at the mercy of further human development and sea level rise.