MIAMI, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has named two new South Florida butterfly species, the Bartram's hairsteak and Florida leaf wing, to the endangered species list -- triggering additional protections for thousands of acres of critical habitat.
The new federal protections will become official on September 11, in time to subject several major real estate development projects to stricter environmental protections and regulations.
Most of the newly protected land is in Everglades National Park and other national park properties, but several hundred acres surround the Zoo Miami, including a chunk of land where the county wants to build an Orlando-style amusement park. The USFWS ruling also means the two butterflies will be afforded additional protections on another significant tract of land in Miami-Dade County -- a piece of property where a Palm Beach County developer aims to erect a Walmart-anchored mixed-use development.
The newly listed butterflies demand that such acreage be routinely thinned with proscribed and controlled fires, and that mosquito-control procedures are regularly undertaken.
The ruling won't necessarily stop the plans for the amusement park and Walmart development, but it will require builders to secure permits for construction -- permits that will require developers to do their due diligence in minimizing their impact on butterfly habitat.
"Anything that's going to be done with these animals has to have our review," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Mark Salvato told the Miami Herald. "We're not to the finish line yet, but it would be pretty bad if someone knew this was going forward and rushed to mow down butterfly habitat."
The ruling comes as somewhat good news to environmentalists who were dismayed when the University of Miami sold a large tract of rare pine rockland forest to Palm Beach County development company Ram Realty Services. Conservation officials say had such a ruling come a few years ago, wildlife advocates would be in a stronger position to stop the development altogether.