Earlier today, Gov. Rick Scott’s appointees to the so-called Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a hunting season for Florida black bears, defying science, reason, and public opinion. Now, the commission is working to weaken protections for the Florida panther. This has included the possibility of looking to persuade the US Fish and Wildlife Service to de-list the Florida panther from the endangered species list and take over management of the panther population. We can’t let that happen.
Gov. Scott, his administration, and his allies in the legislature have declared war on wildlife. After Florida voters declared their unequivocal support of land and water conservation by approving Amendment 1 with 75% of the vote last year, legislators refused to fully fund the measure. Gov. Scott stood by and did nothing. Despite substantial public outcry and no scientific evidence it’s needed, the Wildlife Commission (packed with Gov. Scott's appointees) approved a hunt on Florida black bears. The black bear was only recently taken off the “threatened” list, in 2012.
Now the Wildlife Commission has the even more vulnerable Florida panther in their sights. After seeing their population decimated down to double digit numbers, there are now between 150 and 250 panthers left in the wild, the result of decades of imperfect but improved protection and management. To survive, the panther needs more habitat. This has met resistance from some ranchers and big developers. Instead of working to provide incentives to landowners and developing ecological pathways for panthers to expand their range into a sustainable size, the Wildlife Commission is moving in the opposite direction.
With it’s decision to put the Florida black bear in the sights of hunters, the Wildlife Commission has clearly demonstrated it can’t be a responsible partner in managing our state’s vulnerable wildlife.
Let’s make sure the US Fish and Wildlife Service prevents any attempt to put endangered species like the Florida panther in further jeopardy.