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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

I hope that your effort to save habitat for the Florida panther is successful. Man should be ashamed to allow any animal to become extinct.

If we loose the panthers we can always call ourselves the former Panther State, what about those Carolina Panthers, are there any there, or is it just a name for a Football Team.

Sorry Dave, but your reply shows only how a person can show to be totally ignorant. No Panthers here in N.C. just your ordinary football team that are called the Panthers.

Thank you for your efforts regarding Florida panthers congressman! Much appreciated!

If we lose the Panther it will be an awful loss. I am with you, Vern. We need to protect these beautiful animals. Thank you for working so hard on this issue and many others.

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 or talk to someone in the car...let's give them a hefty fine and you will see how many fewer panthers are killed on the roads. Also fine them for speeding and make the fine high very very high.

the florida panther is really already extinct. the "very successful" captive breeding program in the 90's used texas cougars to augment the gene pool. after the program was over, the state was going to send the cougars back to texas as part of a canned hunt operation. thanks to the group Sarasota in Defense of Animals, and no thanks to the state of florida that had millions of dollars in the panther license plate coffers but wouldn't give it up to save the cats, the cats were saved and sent to sanctuary in texas to live out their lives. SDA spent their own money to do this and were only reimbursed by the state after years of legal battles. as far as preserving a habitat for these guys, i think it's too late. they need a range of hundreds of miles, but they keep building more subdivisions and roads effectively cutting off their range. they are hit by cars and shot by ranchers. i predict they will end up in a state zoo where we can watch them go extinct. i do not believe drastic measures can or will be taken to save them. i believe the Congressman is a couple of decades too late, but then he can blame Obama.

If we reflect back on the way our government treated the American Indian, why would they care about Panthers? The bottom line is development.

Great reply! Sad but true. You said more in those few words than all the others.

Been ruminating bout the panthers. Care much more about them then pond scum suckers like Vern Buchanan. Thanks, C Breeze!. Without going into a long song and dance, before we give the fornicating government more money for a project they will undoubtedly screw up, take ten years to do, waste millions and forget why they were doing it to begin with....How about a simple reduction in the speed limit after dark thru panther country. My idea of 100K was well meaning, not realistic. But a $1,000 speeding fine would be something people could pay - or lose their license - and stiff enough to get their alligator size brains around. Say 40mph top speed after dark - when almost all of them are hit - anyone else agree that might really work and save most of the panther lives and tens of millions we didn't give the pond scum suckers?

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

Vern Buchanan: "One of the 10 most corrupt politicians of 2012" (jUDICIAL WATCH); Vern also voted to fund Obama's Illegal Amnesty; Read about Vern Buchanan in Peter Scweitzer's "EXTORTION" (Over 10 years in Congress: Sarasota/Bradenton voters can, and should, do better with their "Representative" votes)....When you "hired" Buchanan, you "hired" his whole family....You know what they say about "Used car salesmen"...

Keep to the topiç. Behavior like yours should be extinct.

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.

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