Thursday, March 28, 2013

Federal Deal with State Puts Florida's Endangered Species at Risk

For Immediate Release, March 29, 2013
Contact: Alexis Meyer, Sierra Club Florida, (727) 490-8215

Federal Deal with State Puts Florida's Endangered Species at Risk

Sierra Club Applauds Legal Challenge by 3 Environmental Groups

Naples, Florida - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have initiated a conservation agreement under section 6 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which will give full-agreement power to the State in the matters of threatened and endangered species management.

Sierra Club applauds the Center for Biological Diversity, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Everglades Law Center in their litigation against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The groups filed a notice of intent to sue on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Sierra Club Florida was never included in the initial comment stage of planning between Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The development of this agreement was not adequately noticed to the public, with no public hearing or opportunity to comment. “Floridian’s have a right to know what is happening with the future of our endangered species,” said Alexis Meyer, the associate organizing representative for Sierra’s Florida Panther Critical Habitat Campaign. “As a former federal biologist, this transfer of power is troubling for future projects that will impact threatened and endangered species.”

A number of issues were raised with this conservation agreement that Sierra Club objects to:
  • This agreement will give full power for FWC to issue incidental take permits of threatened and endangered species without Federal review, thus violating the intended purpose of the ESA to co-manage species protection by both State and Federal authorities. Incidental take is defined as “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct,” in reference to an action against a species.
  • Diverging from all previous Section 6 Cooperative Agreements, FWS will delegate permitting authority for incidental take on activities and projects that occur in protected species habitats.
  • Section 6 agreements were historically set up to provide cooperation between state and federal agencies for such activities as education and scientific research. This new agreement would now allow the state to solely permit impacts from development, construction, and mining, which does not follow the intended purpose of Section 6 under the ESA.
  • Finally, this agreement ensures no provision of appeal to FWS. A checks and balance system is needed for independent scientific review of species, and projects that will impact them and their habitat. This new agreement will ensure that does not happen. 

“Given the recent economic and financial hardships of the State, Sierra Club feels that the scope of the work cannot and will not be properly managed by a single agency, especially given the recent employee and budget reductions of the FWC,” stated Marian Ryan, the Sierra Club Florida’s Conservation Chair.

“This is an erroneous decision and one that will impact the future of Florida’s green spaces, and threatened and endangered species for years to come,” said Meyer.  "We do not want to see projects rubber-stamped without federal review, especially in regards to our state’s most imperiled species."


~Alexis Meyer, Florida Panther Critical Campaign Representative, Sierra Club

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