insects

Frank Ridgley’s video of the Miami tiger beetle

Frank Ridgley at Zoo Miami has some fantastic video of the Miami tiger beetle (Cicindela floridana); check out this exquisite little species in action:


Ram Realty’s “Technical and Legal Submittal” and “Supplemental Response” to the Miami Tiger Beetle Emergency Listing Petition

In response to a December 11, 2014 emergency listing petition to protect the Miami tiger beetle (Cicindela floridana) filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, advocacy groups, and several individuals (myself included), Ram Realty retained the law firm Gunster, “Florida’s Law Firm for Business,” to craft their reply to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

Luna E. Phillips is a “Florida Bar board certified Gunster shareholder who practices in the area of environmental, administrative and governmental law [and] leads the firm’s Environmental practice” (from Gunster’s website) wrote and submitted two responses to USFWS totaling some 7,500 words! However, in both of these documents there are serious systematic errors and fatal misunderstandings or, even worse, flagrant misrepresentation of the science. Below I’ve reproduced both of Ram’s filings in red and my comments in black.

Technical and Legal Submittal regarding the December 11, 2014 Emergency Listing Petition Filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, et al:

January 14, 2015

Dear Ms. Blackford:

As you know, this firm represents Coral Reef Retail LLC and Coral Reef Resi Ph I LLC, the owners of the Coral Reef Commons property (Coral Reef Owners). Enclosed is a Technical and Legal Submittal regarding the December 11, 2014 Emergency Listing Petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, et al. This Technical and Legal Submittal identifies the flaws in the emergency petition, and the Coral Reef Owners urge the US. Fish and Wildlife Service to carefully review before making a determination on the emergency petition.

The Coral Reef Owners respectfully request that this Technical and Legal Submittal be added to the administrative record for the Miami tiger beetle potential listing, and should the Service make any determinations on the emergency petition, Coral Reef Owners request to be notified. Please do not hesitate to contact me at or via email if you have any questions regarding the content of this letter.

Sincerely,

[Signed]

Luna E. Phillips

cc: Vicki Mott, US. Department of the Interior

Client [Ram Realty]

Rafe Petersen, Holland & Knight

Church Roberts, Johnson Engineering, Inc.

(more…)


Brasiella acuniae (Mutchler, 1924)

While thawing U.S. and Cuba relations are in the news here is a forgotten resident of Cuba: Brasiella acuniae (Mutchler, 1924); pictured is specimen from the Smithsonian’s entomological collections.

acuniae

Andrew J. Mutchler, curator of the Coleoptera at the American Museum of Natural History at that time, described this species in 1924 from eleven specimens collected in the Camaguey Province of Cuba. The first, and most striking aspect of this species is its diminutive size. Mutchler noted male beetles varied from 5 to 5.5mm in length, while females measured 5.5 to 6mm!

This species is smaller than any which has heretofore been described from the West Indies. It approaches viridicollis in the general color of the head and thorax, but the labrum, which is squarely truncate in viridicollis, is pointed at the middle in acuniae; also the white markings on the elytra, when present, are differently located and the metallic markings in acuniae, especially along the subsutural region, are represented by a row of somewhat large foveae, whereas in viridicollis the metallic markings are of approximately the same size on the whole elytra. The color of the under surface is similar in both species.

On the habitat in which the specimens were collected:

The Camaguey or Puerto Principe Province, where the specimens were obtained, is an immense plain, interrupted in a slight degree by hills belonging to the groups of Cubitee and Najash, situated respectively north and south of the capital, the city of Camaguey, which is located approximately in the center of the province.

The specific epithet is a patronym honoring the collector Julian Acuna:

The specimens representing a new form of Cicindelidae were kindly sent to this Museum by Mr. Stephen J. Bruner, Chief of the Department of Pathology and Entomology of the Estacion Experimental Agronomica, located at Santiago de las Vegas, Havana Province, Cuba. In an accompanying leter he states that the material was collected in the Camaguey Province, by a former assistant, Julian Acuna.

The American Museum of Natural History has a collection entry with an image of a type specimen and the full species description is available online through the AMNH.

Brasiella acuniae


Once altered = gone forever?

With efforts to develop globally imperiled pine rocklands met with a public outcry, Ram Realty, developers of the planned Coral Reef Commons, have attempted to portray the Coral Reef Commons (CRC) pine rocklands as largely developed. While this is not true (only 12% of the CRC site is significantly developed), what happens when pine rocklands are altered? Is the site really no longer a place worth preserving as Ram suggests?

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In the image above is one of the best maintained Richmond Heights pine rockland tracts, covering over 60 acres. Today it sits just outside of Zoo Miami (and in the footprint of Miami Wilds!) but in the 1940’s it was the site of Richmond Naval Air Station. Below in an image form 1952 you can see the expansive footprint of Richmond NAS.

N portion of Zoo Mimai finish0001

In this side-by-side view you can see the remnants of the blimp mooring pads and the red outline of this 60+ acre tract of rocklands in 1952 and in 2014. What today is a beautiful forest was tarmac, bare earth, and grass back in the 1950s. This land was originally pine rocklands but was cleared (in the early 1940s) to make way for the naval air station. But with the decommissioning of the Richmond NAS and subsequent period of unhindered growth (and semi-regular wildfires/prescribed burns) it is again beautiful pine rocklands. Most importantly this site is home of the rare Miami tiger beetle, a candidate for state and federal protection, along with numerous other endemic and rare animal and plants.

1952 vs 2014

The only visible remnants of the site’s past is a crumbling asphalt roadway cutting through a portion of the rocklands.

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As you can see even pine rockland tracts which have been altered are excellent candidates for restoration and seriously in need of protection. This need is even more urgent for the remaining intact Richmond Heights pine rocklands, which sit in the footprints of Coral Reef Commons and Miami Wilds. Ram Realty and 20th Century Fox developers are still pushing forward on their Coral Reef Commons and Miami Wilds, respectively, and Miami-Dade county is trying to circumvent any environmental regulations protecting or pertaining to these pine rocklands by attempting to declare a massive swath of land around Zoo Miami as a “slum or blighted area.” These developments are both environmentally unacceptable and poorly planned, with no adequate measures taken to address the pine rocklands.


Cicindelidia melissa: A new species from southeastern Arizona and Mexico

Just published: Duran and Roman described a new tiger beetle species, Cicindelidia melissa Duran & Roman 2014, from high elevation (>2000 m.) Ponderosa pine forests in Chiracahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona and the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua and Durango.

zk_article_4338-11 © Daniel P. Duran, Stephen J. Roman. Reproduced here under the terms of CC BY 4.0

From the paper:

This species can be distinguished from all other similar Cicindelidia by its dark green-violet abdominal venter with the two apical segments dull orange or orange-brown, a brassy-cupreous head and pronotum with metallic blue reflections in sulci, small shallow subsutural foveae present in most individuals, and microserrate elytral apices. It inhabits rocky upland soils in ponderosa pine forests above 2000 m.

C. sedecimpunctata (Klug, 1834) has an entirely orange-red to orange-brown abdominal venter, a more uniform dull brown dorsal coloration, and lacks apparent subsutural foveae. It also differs from the new species by inhabiting muddy ground at nearly any elevation. C. nebuligera (Bates, 1890) has dark elytral infuscations that surround the middle band, and lacks elytral apical microserrations. It may be found in similar habitats, but is apparently allopatric with the new species and does not appear to be restricted to elevations above 2000 m.

c mel top

Left: Dorsal habitus of male (holotype); Right: Dorsal habitus of female (allotype). © Daniel P. Duran, Stephen J. Roman. Reproduced here under the terms of CC BY 4.0

 

c mel side

Top: Lateral habitus of male (holotype); Bottom: Lateral habitus of female (allotype). © Daniel P. Duran, Stephen J. Roman. Reproduced here under the terms of CC BY 4.0


Blight?

[The Committee] accepts the Study identifying approximately 2,146 acres within the unincorporated municipal service area (UMSA), which lie entirely in Commission District 9 represented by Commissioner Dennis C. Moss, to be slum and blighted.

Miami-Dade Legislative Item 142509

This month a Miami-Dade county committee approved a resolution from county commissioner Dennis Moss to designate the Richmond Heights pine rocklands (the largest fragement of pine rocklands outside the Everglades National Park and the only habitat of the Miami tiger beetle) along with the surrounding lands “a slum or blighted area.” This resolution stemmed from a county-commitioned study supplied by the firm Calvin, Giordano & Associates which built a tenuous case that slum or blight conditions exist in and around the Richmond Heights pine rocklands. The Committee forwarded the resolution to the full Board of County Commissioners for consideration:

It is recommended that the Board of County Commissioners … consider taking the following actions:

4. The Board declares and finds that there is a need for a community redevelopment agency to function and carry out the community redevelopment purposes of the Act; and

5. The Board directs the County Mayor or the County Mayor’s designee to prepare a plan of redevelopment for the Area, and to submit the plan of redevelopment to the Board for approval after notice and public hearing.

Should a community redevelopment agency be created, the Area covered will make it the second largest in the County, with only the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency larger at 3,540 acres. The Study includes the Zoo Miami, Coast Guard, and the former University of Miami properties.

Miami-Dade Legislative Item 142509

The goal in establishing the existence of slum or blight conditions and subsequent community redevelopment agency (CRA) is to create a special tax district¹ which will channel public funds into development of the site. The development in question is the $930 million theme park, Miami Wilds. As I have written previously the construction of this theme park (in its present incarnation) is a serious and unacceptable threat to the Richmond Heights pine rocklands and the survival of numerous endangered species, including the Miami tiger beetle, a candidate for emergency state and federal protection.

The developers, Miami Wilds LLC, have already received approval for an initial $13.5 million in bond funds to replicate the US Coast Guard communications tower array which currently stands in the footprint of the theme park. However, use of this land requires Federal permission and approval of the developer’s plans; approval which has not yet been given.

master CAMA LMP template 20030122

The Richmond Heights pine rocklands have survived comparatively unscathed since the since the early development of the site in the 1940s and these lands represent a major portion of the 1.8% of pine rocklands left outside the Everglades National Park. Any further development seriously jeopardizes the rocklands, chiefly by fragmenting the remaining habitat and stifling fires, a necessary ecological cycle for the continued health of the habitats.

IMG_8799

Proper management of pine rockland fragments includes prescribed burning (which can generate heavy amounts of smoke)… Construction of hospitals, schools, apartments, and hotels around [rocklands] should be discouraged because of conflicts with smoke generation during prescribed fires. URS Corporation et al 2007

These current plans for Miami Wilds and Coral Reef Commons will severely fragment the remaining Richmond Heights pine rocklands. Once these rocklands are surrounded by heavy development any prescribed burning will be extraordinarily unlikely.

… maximize open space and limit pollution runoff [around rocklands]. URS Corporation et al 2007

A secondary impact of any development is that without sufficient buffer areas around the rocklands the new fragments will be highly susceptible to pollution and encroachment of non-native and invasive animals and plants from the surrounding.

IMG_5854

The current plans for development do not adequately conserve these imperiled rocklands and are not a reasonable option for the continued survival of this unique habitat and its inhabitants. Over 98% of the Miami-Dade rocklands have been lost to development. There are better options for utilization of the non-rockland areas, options which do not fragment or destroy rocklands, alternatives which provide adequate buffers to facilitate the necessary management of the habitat.

The “blight” resolution has been forwarded to the Board of County Commissioners for consideration and a full public hearing on January 21st.

Local residents are planning a rally for the rocklands on January 17th

The Center for Biological Diversity has a letter to the Miami Board of County Commissioners which you can sign and send in support of preserving the pine rocklands.

View the resolution here. Read the Calvin, Giordano & Associates study here.

Also see the Miami Herald article on the this latest development.

Notes

¹In designating an area as a CRA governing bodies are afforded the opportunity to leverage public financing for the purpose of land acquisition, demolition, housing and infrastructure improvements, environmental remediation, neighborhood enhancement and other similar activities. This is accomplished through a funding mechanism known as Tax Increment Financing (TIF). From MetroZoo Finding of Necessity Study 2014 Update

References

URS Corporation, The Institute for Regional Conservation, and Muller and Associates, Inc. 2007. Miami Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program Management Plan, Part II: Management of specific habitat types, Chapter 1: The pine rockland habitat. Submitted to Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, Miami, Florida by URS Corporation. K.A. Bradley, G.D. Gann, M.J. Barry, contributors.


Emergency protection sought for Miami tiger beetle

Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed emergency petitions to protect the exceedingly rare Miami tiger beetle, Cicindela floridana, a South Florida pine rocklands endemic, as a protected species under Florida law and as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

IMG_8703

Pine rocklands once stretched from the Florida Keys up to the northern edge of Miami-Dade County, but widespread urbanization and agricultural development destroyed the majority of Floridian pine rockland. This fire-dependent community, found on limestone outcroppings, is comprised of a sparse canopy dominated by Florida slash pine, Pinus elliotti var. densa, and a varied understory. Today, only a fraction of the original Miami pine rockland habitat remains; by some estimates as little as 1.8%. Moreover, most of these remaining areas are quite small and often widely separated by miles of heavy development.

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The pine rockland habitats are home to many endemic species, many of which are listed as endangered including the Florida Bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), Bartram’s hairstreak (Strymon acis bartrami), Florida leafwing (Anaea troglodyta floridalis), Florida brickell-bush (Brickellia mosieri), deltoid spurge (Chamaesyce deltoidea deltoidea), Carter’s small-flowered flax (Linum carteri carteri), tiny polygala (Polygala smallii).

Today many of these remaining pine rocklands and their inhabitants now face another danger; due to the lack of fire, both native and non-native vegetation are taking over the habitats which incrementally transitioning to hardwood hammocks.

Of greatest concern is the Richmond Heights pine rocklands, where the Miami tiger beetle was rediscovered in 2007. In addition to vegetation encroachment, there are plans to develop significant portions of the pinelands. The first, and most immediate, is Ram Realty’s plan to develop and 88-acre parcel of rocklands purchased from the University of Miami.

Microsoft Word - MTB petition.docx
While Ram has set aside some of the land for nature preserves, any development seriously jeopardizes the rocklands by fragmenting the remaining habitat and stifling fires, a necessity for the continued health of the habitats. The second, and most expansive in scope, is the county’s plan to develop a major amusement park in and around the rocklands.

New-Document-7

This plan calls for major development including a four lane highway and major transportation corridor through the rocklands. This development will irrevocably damage all of the Richmond pine rocklands, through fragmentation, pollution, and stifling fires within the remaining habitat.

Both development pose real and immediate risks to endangered and rare species, including the Miami tiger beetle. These developments will results in the destruction and degradation of pine rocklands and will kill endangered and candidate species including the adults and larvae of the Miami tiger beetle.

Even before the current plans for development the Miami tiger beetle (Cicindela floridana) was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service species of concern. Additionally, Knisley et al (2014) assigned the Miami tiger beetle a 1+ grade, their “highest level of rarity and/or threats” in a comprehensive review of the conservation status of United States tiger beetles. With over 98% of the potential former habitat gone and direct threats to the only remaining habitat this species is in need of urgent action to prevent its extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s press release is available at their website.

References

Knisley, C., M. Kippenhan, and D. Brzoska. 2014. Conservation status of United States tiger beetles. Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews. 7: 93-145.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan: Appendix C. Species of Concern and their Associated Community Types in South Florida.

URS Corporation, The Institute for Regional Conservation, and Muller and Associates, Inc. 2007. Miami Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program Management Plan, Part II: Management of specific habitat types, Chapter 1: The pine rockland habitat. Submitted to Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, Miami, Florida by URS Corporation. K.A. Bradley, G.D. Gann, M.J. Barry, contributors.


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