Florida bonneted bats are listed by US Fish and Wildlife as endangered, and protected by the Endangered Species Act.
1. The applicant’s environmental consultant’s reports confirmed some good things:
-they recorded 2048 bonneted bat calls (this is considered high bat activity)
-291 calls were within 1.5 hours after sunset (indicates roosting is likely to occur nearby)
-4 calls contained “social calls” (also criteria for high bat activity)
2. Our concerns:
-required weather conditions to collect data were NOT met on 19/28 of the acoustic survey nights (so the activity could be significantly higher)
-an emergence survey was not conducted (to identify possible additional trees with cavities)
-they provided a cavity tree and roost survey (Dec 16/17 2020) but only identified 7 trees with cavities (there are 580 trees identified on the golf course)
-they didn’t find any evidence that the bonneted bat is roosting on the golf course (they checked the existing old building structures, and the 7 trees with cavities)
-no documentation has been provided of any consultation between the applicant and US Fish and Wildlife, even though the US FWS 2019 consultation key says “Applicants with projects in the South Florida Urban Bat Area should contact the USFWS for specific guidance addressing this area and individual consultation.” pg 5 of US FWS letter and guidance available here: 2019 US FWS Bonneted Bat Consultation Key
3. DERM (Division of Environmental Resources Management) Memo dated October 7, 2021 states that they recommend approval of the proposed development with the following condition:
“Prior to obtaining the earlier of a soil improvement permit, building permit , or tree removal permit, the Applicant shall submit to DERM: (i) the results of site inspections to be conducted once every other month between September 21, 2021, and June 30, 2022, during the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s recommended wading bird survey period for Florida’s South Zone ; and (ii) a plan for DERM’s review and approval demonstrating how the nesting, feeding, and roosting habitat of the Florida bonneted bat, the little blue heron, the tricolored heron, and any other Federal or state threatened, or endangered species will be protected and buffered from the proposed development and to ensure further degradation of such habitat is not authorized; and (iii) a plan for DERM’s review and approval demonstrating how County designated species shall be conserved. The applicant has acknowledged that compliance with this condition could result in changes to reduce the scope of the development being required.”
4. In our opinion, the public zoning hearing MUST be DEFERRED! We feel strongly that much more information is needed before the County should even consider a public hearing for this proposed development application. The Board of County Commissioners cannot make a decision on appropriate use of the property without a thorough understanding of wildlife utilization on the property. If the County approves the proposed development, residents are no longer able to offer input in the decision making process as there will be no further public hearings.