The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advised Walton County to pay closer attention to the potential impact of real estate development on the Choctawhatchee beach mouse, an endangered species.
The federal agency sent a memo to Walton County along with a map of suitable habitat in the county for the Choctawhatchee beach mouse.
“Please be advised that all land disturbance and construction activities, including redevelopment, that fall within this suitable habitat require coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” the agency said in its memo to the county.
Walton County spokesman Louis Svehla told the Northwest Florida Daily News that the federal agency’s memo was consistent with past policy, but county officials are unsure what prompted the memo.
Kristi Yanchis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the newspaper the catalyst for the memo was an increase in real estate development in Walton County “and the amount of calls we are receiving informing us of actions taking place in CBM [Choctawhatchee beach mouse] habitat without a permit from us.”
In a press release last week, Walton County said critical beach mouse habitat includes land located south of Scenic Gulf Drive extending eastward from the Okaloosa County line to the intersection with U.S. Highway 98.
Yanchis said a landowner who decides to “take” habitat for the beach mouse without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could be subject to enforcement action. [Northwest Florida Daily News] — Mike Seemuth