Protection of State and Federally-Listed Wildlife Species
The HPS families recognize and appreciate that their property serves as habitat for both protected and non-listed wildlife species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have identified eight state and federally-protected wildlife species and nine state-only protected wildlife species as potentially occurring on the HPS property. A team of HPS biologists and ecologists have spent two years (2016–2018) conducting surveys on the property to document any occurrence of these species. Two of these state and federally-listed species—the wood stork and the American alligator—have been observed on the property. Three state-only listed wildlife species—the little blue heron, tricolored heron, and gopher tortoise—have also been observed on the site.
In order to protect these species and their habitat during the mining process, HPS has developed a Wildlife and Habitat Management Plan (Plan). The purpose of the Plan is to provide protections for existing threatened and endangered wildlife species as well as to maintain or improve the biological functions of the native wetlands and uplands on the site as an important part of the mining and reclamation plans. The Plan provides measures to avoid adverse impacts to listed species and measures for wildlife to re-populate reclaimed lands and enhanced preservation areas following completion of the mining process. Importantly, the Plan is a living document that may be amended upon review and agreement by HPS and the wildlife agencies to accommodate any new listed species observed during pre-clearing surveys or in the event that any non-listed species documented on-site become listed at a later time during the life of the mine.
In addition to the Wildlife and Habitat Management Plan, the HPS mine is subject to rigorous permitting that will serve to provide additional protection measures for wildlife on site. As part of the permitting process, a Biological Assessment will be conducted for the HPS mine, and the USFWS will issue a Biological Opinion for the site if listed species could be adversely impacted by the project. This Opinion will contain any additional measures HPS must implement to minimize and mitigate any impacts. HPS will also strictly abide by all federal and state protection measures, USFWS and FWC published technical guidance documents for species protection, and best management practices. For example, protection measures include avoiding or relocating populations of protected species existing on-site during mining and protecting their habitat with preservation areas or no-disturbance areas.
By protecting existing listed species and their habitat on-site when possible and preserving and managing the highest quality habitats on the site, these species and areas will help to re-populate the HPS property following the completion of mining and reclamation. Ultimately, the HPS property will be reclaimed to a higher ecological quality than pre-mining conditions, and important wildlife habitat will be protected by a permanent conservation easement, providing significant long-term habitat for both protected and non-listed wildlife species. Wildlife is well documented on reclaimed lands.