Friday, October 19, 2018

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Advances Plan Undermining Florida Panther Survival and Recovery


Cris Costello, Sierra Club Organizing Manager,, 941 966 9508 
Karimah Schoenhut, Sierra Club Staff Attorney,, 202 548 4584

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Advances Plan Undermining Florida Panther
Survival and Recovery

South Florida -- Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a draft Environmental Impact Statement on an application from real estate developers in southwest Florida for permission to destroy important habitat for numerous species listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, including the iconic Florida panther, all for the sake of another housing tract.

Approval of the proposed Eastern Collier County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan and the associated 50-year take permits would enable intense mining, residential, and commercial development on 45,000 acres of habitat that is vital to the panther and other imperiled species including the scrub jay, caracara, wood stork, red cockaded woodpecker, snail kite, indigo snake, and bonneted bat.  The permits would facilitate construction of tens of thousands of homes, resulting in greatly increased traffic, roads, and other infrastructure that would further fragment dwindling panther habitat, obstruct corridors necessary to movement and recovery, and increase the already grave number of panther deaths from vehicle collisions.  

The proposed development will also result in impacts to water resources, water supply, and sensitive public lands adjacent to the plan area.

In exchange for authorization for the habitat destruction, the applicants propose to leave other areas of nearby habitat undeveloped.  In response, Cris Costello, Sierra Club Organizing Manager stated, “The trade-offs proposed by the landowners cannot make up for the destruction and fragmentation of vital habitat. This sweeping authorization for development in Collier County would undermine the survival and recovery of the Florida panther and other endangered and threatened species.” 

“Pushing this plan forward is another sad example of the Trump-Zinke Fish and Wildlife Service’s assault on endangered and threatened species nationwide,” said Karimah Schoenhut, Sierra Club staff attorney. “This administration has made clear its intention to weaken protections for imperiled wildlife for the benefit of exploitative industries.”