Florida Panther Habitat Whittled Away With Official Okays

For Immediate Release


Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

Florida Panther Habitat Whittled Away With Official Okays

More Than Two Acres Lost for Each "Preserved" as New Projects Hem in Panther

WASHINGTON - Over the last generation, government habitat preservation programs
for the critically endangered Florida panther have allowed more than two
acres to be destroyed by development for every acre supposedly saved,
according to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service document posted today by
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Now, despite
official recognition of failing panther population recovery, several
new developments threaten to fragment tattered panther habitat even

In the period from 1984 to 2009, the U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service approved 127 developments in areas that it deemed could
adversely affect the panther. Those projects destroyed nearly 100,000
acres (96,124) of panther habitat while less than 42,000 acres (41,612)
were "preserved" either on or offsite of the projects. It is unclear
how many of those preserved acres actually benefit the panther.

this steady loss of habitat, FWS is signing off on more developments
and major roads cutting through the remaining panther habitat. One such
artery, called Oil Well Road, would be a six-lane road across Camp
Keais Strand, the corridor connecting Corkscrew Swamp with Florida
Panther National Wildlife Refuge. In addition, there is an ongoing study
of a new I-75 interchange at Everglades Blvd., as well as a Collier
County "East of 951" highway extension study.

This spreading
network of highways is also leading to the demise of the few panthers
remaining. There are less than 120 Florida panthers remaining in the
wild, a number reduced by a record 23 panther deaths in 2009. Most of
those (16) were the result of vehicle collisions. Thus far in 2010,
another 5 panthers have died - three from collisions.

"The Fish
& Wildlife Service is presiding over the slow motion extinction of
the Florida panther, all the while calling it a success story," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, whose organization is part of a
coalition suing the Obama administration to finally take action to
protect panther habitat. "How can the Fish & Wildlife Service find
that a six-lane highway cutting right through panther country would have
‘no adverse effect' on the remaining population?"

ironically, FWS now takes the position that there is not enough
remaining habitat to allow the panther to recover in Florida. Yet,
during this period FWS did not object to a single project to protect the
panther. Moreover, PEER charges that the agency is continuing to take
actions which will doom the iconic cat to a future as what FWS staff
call "a zoo species":

  • Despite the massive loss of panther
    habitat to development, FWS has yet to designate a single acre of
    critical habitat to protect the panther from further intrusions;
  • At
    the request of developers, FWS shrank the panther consultation area by
    nearly 900,000 acres, an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, meaning
    that the agency does not even review new construction inside this large
    zone; and
  • FWS is now encouraging a new developer-financed
    "Panther Protection" plan to develop another 45,000 acres of panther
    habitat in Collier County alone.

"Substantively, the
Obama record on endangered species looks just like the Bush record but
with a little more lipstick," Ruch added, pointing to last week's White
House Conference on America's Great Outdoors as an example of the
cosmetic self-congratulatory press event now in vogue. "Outside of
zoos, soon the only place Florida panthers will be seen is on the
state's personalized license plates."


panther habitat loss in 25 years of FWS consultations

at the latest panther deaths

the network of new roads needed to support Collier County development

Examine the new
lawsuit to win critical habitat for the panther

Revisit the
breakdown of Endangered Species Ac enforcement in Florida


Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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