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May 20 is Endangered Species Day
May 20, 2011 is Endangered Species Day. Perhaps the most famous endangered Everglades critter is the Florida Panther. In the spirit of the day, we’re re-posting a great article on the Panther by independent journalist Bob Berwyn.
Last Stand for the Florida Panther?
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Florida panthers are close to making their last stand in the swampy grasslands and forests of the Everglades. At least 23 panthers were killed last year and 11 have died in 2011. With only about 100 of the cats remaining in the wild, their survival may depend on the designation of critical habitat, a step the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has this refused to take. Read further information on Florida Panther mortality rates
But that may change. A coalition of environmental groups has filed an appeal in federal court, seeking to force the agency to protect what is left of the panthers rapidly dwindling habitat in the midst of sprawling development in South Florida. The animals only remain in about 5 percent of their historic range.
“We have a very limited population due to inbreeding depression,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Center of Biological Diversity. Robinson said the population was boosted by a temporary introduction of nine West Texas pumas that were subsequently removed from Florida after they reproduced.
The federal recovery plan calls for protecting a primary core zone and a secondary dispersal zone north of the Caloosahatchee River — but nothing is a muscular as a critical habitat designation, Robinson said. Click here to visit the USFWS Florida panther web page.
The panthers have been on the endangered species list since 1967 and the federal government has not come close to fulfilling its legal and moral obligation to recover the species — mainly due to the political influence of deep-pocketed special interests, according to Robinson. Efforts on behalf of the panther by conservation groups are detailed at the Center for Biological Diversity website.
While a critical habitat designation isn’t technically required under the Endangered Species Act in all cases, the law does require federal agencies to take all necessary measures toward recovery. And that hasn’t happened in Florida, Robinson said.
“At this rate, any possibility that the panther will recover will soon be lost forever unless our legal effort is successful,” said Eric E. Huber, a seniror staff attorney with the Sierra Club and lead counsel for the groups.
Read the entire article at Berwyn’s Web site.
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