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Environmental Group Wants To Sue U.S. Government To Get Protection For Rare Keys Lizard

The Florida Keys mole skink is a small lizard that lives only in coastal areas of the Keys.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A small lizard that lives only in the coastal areas of the Florida Keys is facing "a foreseeable and imminent death sentence" and deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act, according to an environmental group.

The Center for Biological Diversity has notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of its intent to sue the agency over its decision not to list the Florida Keys mole skink, along with 24 other species proposed for protection.

"Climate change and the sea-level rise it is causing are steadily changing the world, and few animals will feel those impacts more acutely than the Florida Keys mole skink," Elise Pautler Bennett, a staff attorney for the center, wrote in the filing.

The skink reaches a length of about five inches  and is brown with a pink tail. It's Latin name is Plestiodon egregius egregius.

"Its Latin name  egregius roughly translates to 'standing out from the flock,' which reflects both its distinctiveness and its tremendously secretive nature," according to the center's filing.

Sea level rise inundates the skinks' coastal habitat, and they also face threats from habitat loss, pollution and predation by cats and other predators, according to the center.

The state of Florida lists the Keys mole skink as threatened.

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Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.