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Politics

Florida Panther Habitat Needed, Congressman Insists

December 28, 2015 - 12:15pm

Pointing to an incident over the weekend in which a Florida panther was killed by a vehicle, U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., doubled down on his call for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate a “critical habitat” for the official animal of the Sunshine State. 

“Each year, the Florida panther population continues to shrink in size as more big cats are hit and killed by cars because they lack a safe habitat,” Buchanan said on Monday. “Although these panthers are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, they face extinction because they have no protected area to live and repopulate.”
 
“We should not stand by and do nothing as yet another endangered species is wiped off the earth,” Buchanan added. “We don’t get a second chance once a species becomes extinct.”

Earlier this month, members of the Florida congressional delegation urged President Barack Obama to add more protection for Florida panthers, calling on him to create a critical habitat designation for the Florida panther. In 1967, the Florida panther was one of 14 mammals included in the launch of the Endangered Species Act. 

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., led the letter which was also signed by Buchanan, fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson and Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Patrick Murphy, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson. 

“The Florida panther is one of the most endangered species in the world as less than 180 of them survive today,” the representatives wrote Obama. “As you know, the two greatest threats to the Florida panther are the loss of habitat and automobile-related deaths, both of which are caused by increased development in environmentally sensitive areas.  The best available science suggests that current lands in conservation do not provide enough suitable habitat area to support even the limited number of existing panthers.  Further, on November 28th, two more panthers were killed by cars.

“As members of the Florida delegation, we are writing to request your support in establishing a critical habitat designation for the endangered Florida panther,” they added. “The Florida panther was listed as an endangered species in 1973, but critical habitat has never been established, even though the Endangered Species Act includes a requirement for the designation of critical habitat for endangered species. In other words, the Florida panther is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, unfortunately its home is not. 

“It is of great importance to designate a critical habitat not only because it would preserve and encourage the growth of the current population of Florida panthers, but also because it would help to protect other valuable environmental resources, such as wetlands, aquifer-recharge areas, drinking water supplies and the habitat of other endangered species,” the representatives wrote. “At the top of the food chain, Florida panthers help keep feral hog numbers in check and deer, raccoon and other prey populations balanced and healthy.  Moreover, a designation of critical habitat does not mean that no further development is allowed in an area, it simply requires additional review when projects requiring federal permits would impact habitats considered essential to preventing the Florida panther from going extinct.

“We urge you to ensure the continued existence of the Florida panther and the preservation of Southwest Florida’s natural resources and unique character by supporting the designation of critical habitat for the endangered Florida panther,” they wrote in conclusion. “Thank you for your time and consideration.  The decision to take action now will provide a historic opportunity for protecting the Earth’s most endangered ‘umbrella species’ – the Florida panther.”

FWS is in charge of critical habitats and, on its website, defines the role of development in those areas. 

“A critical habitat designation does not necessarily restrict further development,” the FWS noted. “It is a reminder to federal agencies that they must make special efforts to protect the important characteristics of these areas.

“Only activities that involve a federal permit, license, or funding, and are likely to destroy or adversely modify the area of critical habitat will be affected,” the FWS added. “If this is the case, the Service will work with the federal agency and, where appropriate, private or other landowners to amend their project to allow it to proceed without adversely affecting the critical habitat. Thus, most federal projects are likely to go forward, but some will be modified to minimize harm to critical habitat.”

Back in 2013, there were 160 Florida panthers in the wild but current estimates have it as high as 180. As low as that number is, it was far worse in the 1970s when the population dropped to around 20. 

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

Comments

For U.S. Rep Vern Buchanan to request executive order rather than votes by the will of the people is unforgivable. Buchanan's decision to shove laws down the throats of his constituents gives rise for votes cast against him in the next election. He no longer serves the people of Florida; rather, extends a hand to extreme-enviormentalists. Panthers are slaughtering the natural wildlife and will cause more natural species to become endangered. Quail, rabbit, and deer have no chance with the Texas Mountain Loin. The last Florida Panther died in 2007, and their DNA no longer exists. Buchanan does not represent the interests of the Florida Citizen.

What a bunch of nonsense !!!! These animals are a non-native imported Puma/Cougar. They don't belong in our ecosystem and should not be protected by OUR money. Th federal government along with the State of Florida continues to mislead and lie about this matter.

Amen ! We need a balance of all wildlife, not single species managment.

We have to stop the people in charge ,from selling permits to Developers ,without thinking about the consequences for the Florida Future. Keep Florida beautiful! Treasure our Wildlife and Natural Habitats . Traffic is already horrifying ,and what about the Water problem we have ? Sell existing homes, before building new ones. The Joy of living in Florida is being Destroyed. Most important ,Newcomers have to be educated to coexist with all of Florida's Habitants , what to expect and respect. Thank you everyone ,who makes an effort to protect this magical State.

If the development goes on unabated, there will be nothing left of the beauty that attracted us to Florida. We have to realize that everybody can't live in Florida. There has to be consideration for animals, the mangroves, the Everglades, the open spaces. If we let the developers build a house for everyone, no one will want to be here. Remember when you vote for local officials, the biggest ads and the most money is spent by the candidates who are in the pockets of the developers. Vote for the bloke who wants to control development.

Thanks

Thank you Vern, your efforts are greatly appreciated!

Thank you Vern. We need to save our Florida wildlife and stop this massive development and changing the Eco system. Don't let it be too late.

Thank you

There is to much building and these poor animals are being pushed out of their habitat. I don't see any cranes like I did when I first moved down here either. Thank you Vern Buchanan. But I have to say I have emailed made phone calls etc to my politicians in Sarasota county and just get automatic replies for many issues and have a hard time believing until I see action.

I think everything possible should be done to save these beautiful creatures. With all the building going on and denuding of vegetation we are losing nesting places for birds, turtles, frogs , bobcats and eagles. We need to have more green space areas with no people and start planting more Florida friendly plants to make it denser in the forests. In some areas across the Country they put large concrete walls which serves a dual purpose-1. cuts down on noise going into the neighborhood and animal crossings 2. they also build tunnels underground so the animals would not go on the highways. Thank you Rep. Buchanan for doing all you can!!!!!!

I agree. We have to stop destroying habitat for these lovely animals and many other species.

This unabated development is destroying our wildlife habitat and is killing our quality of life in Florida. I realized the other day that there are few birds on Bird Key. The egrets are all gone. I have seen only one in the last three months.Even the crow population is diminished. We are trapped like rats on a sinking ship every day from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. with traffic choking our front entrance as the Lido and Longboat crowd (that's you, Congressman Buchanan) make their way over the Ringling Bridge to the fun and activities of the city. A second bridge from Longboat to the city would be helpful, but that will never happen in my lifetime. The animals have no chance of surviving and in the long run, neither do we. Sad, isn't it!

Several months ago, we picketed, signed petitions, and begged Vern Buchanan and all the other FL Representatives to step in and stop the FL Black Bear Hunt but all of our efforts were ignored. I truly pray that this committee is really trying to protect our FL Panthers and not just putting on a show before election time comes back around !

The panthers need protection and thank you Vern. Destroying animal habitats will eventually be the downfall of our planet.

Thank you for your efforts on behalf of all animals, particularly the Florida Panther. We must pull out all the stops to achieve protection for this magnificent creature.

Thank you for caring about our wildlife...we need to make anyone that hits a panther pay dearly...that will get everyone's attention...people need to pay attention when they are driving...not talk on the phone or text or eat . There is a legal way to stop panther vehicle deaths... every proposed new development (real estate, commercial or industrial) requires a county traffic impact study... these traffic impact studies can be used to estimate how many new panthers will be killed by the new vehicle traffic... by comparing locations where panthers have been killed to the new propose traffic... this can be used in court to stop the or limit the new developments... citizens use traffic impact studies to alter and stop development all the time... the same legal process can be used to protect panthers - See more at: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/florida-panther-habitat-needed-congressman-insists#sthash.6MzCIxSq.c2Jmsu2T.dpuf The panthers do not have a chance. 20 million people is the problem, coupled with the fact that morons are allowed to drive cars. Cars can go 100 mph. Why? Where can you go that fast? The fornicating government would not have to get involved, pond scum sucking polticians - Alcee Hastings. Really?- would not have to get involved if a sane policy was enacted. How about you hit a panther it is a $100,000 fine? Pay or lose your license. That would slow down the moron factor which is the root cause of panther deaths. They would slow down. Way down. - See more at: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/florida-panther-habitat-needed-congressman-insists#sthash.6MzCIxSq.c2Jmsu2T.dpuf The panthers need a safe corridor where they can roam significant distances. Other states have undeveloped corridors for various animals, not sure whether Florida has any or not. I don't know how to set up corridors but some people do. I imagine the most difficulty would be either getting the land assigned as a wildlife corridor and preventing development. Not easy politically, but what worthwhile effort ever is easy. - See more at: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/florida-panther-habitat-needed-congressman-insists#sthash.6MzCIxSq.c2Jmsu2T.dpuf

I support your initiative 100%. These beautiful animals need to be protected so they survive.

I am pleased to give congressman Buchanan credit for being one of the very few politicians who have not forgotten that his constituents wellbeing is more important than the party line. Yes we must protect the Panthers and the Manatees with an increased sense of urgency.

I support and thank Congressman Buchanan for caring and yes, we need to protect these beautiful animals! Animals are human, too!!

Thank you Vern for initiating this much needed support to protect the Florida Panther!

We have them in our back yard in the woods.I was in the pool and one walked right next to the Lanai,I said hello,and he turned to look at me and I realized it was a Fl. Panther.I totally support your efforts.

I applaud your effort so save our panthers. It may still be a losing battle with the millions of people that drive, but we have to at least try.

We have some large Federal and State lands i.e. the Everglades (although it is a LOT smaller than it used to be 100 years ago due to development), Myakka River State Park, the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and the Kissimmee Prairie State Park. However, the Florida panther has a large range of territory. Earlier this year, a rehabilitated Florida panther was released at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park on January 7. Researchers at the Florida FISH AND WILDLIFE RESEARCH INSTITUTE fit this panther with a GPS tracking collar, and for seven months they collected data on its movements. The panther was tracked at approximately 1,000 locations while radio collared, and from January to mid-June he's traveled over 800 miles across the central Florida landscape! This type of panther research and management by the FWC is funded almost entirely by the “Protect the Panther” license plate. Perhaps, there is a way of using Federal dollars and also money collected by the “Protect the Panther” license plates as well as charitable donations using public service announcements to provide some protection for the Florida Panther from motor vehicle accidents by fencing the main highways where the most panther deaths have been identified and providing "panther" road access over the highways at strategic points.

The Florida Panther's plight is serious but unlikely to be acted upon by the Federal Government. Let Legislators do what they will. Your best efforts are needed desparately on Fwdweal matters, Vern.

Please continue your efforts to protect this endangered spices.

I support your efforts to save wildlife and our natural waters but I feel the governor only sees a large cash register. He seems to be working against the states wishes to keep Florida natural. Please continue with your noble efforts and pray he does not run for Fla senate.

I strongly support this effort Congressman.

Thank you Congressman Buchanan...... You do so much to help save animals and protect them from people that have their own cruel agenda's. The bear hunt was so barbaric, that I'm so ashamed of the lack of respect the state showed for wildlife in allowing this to have happened. It was sad and disgusting to see the pictures posted afterwards. A big thanks to all the others that are helping with protecting the Panthers also.

The panthers need a safe corridor where they can roam significant distances. Other states have undeveloped corridors for various animals, not sure whether Florida has any or not. I don't know how to set up corridors but some people do. I imagine the most difficulty would be either getting the land assigned as a wildlife corridor and preventing development. Not easy politically, but what worthwhile effort ever is easy.

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