There is a long, detailed article about endangered Florida panthers and the loss of habitat they are experiencing in the Naples Daily News. This article is so intricate I couldn’t possibly try to sum up except to say it basically makes the case that although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (which keeps the Endangered Species List) is charged with protecting the panther, it hasn’t seemed to stop development that segments panther territory, further making panther recovery improbable.
Archive for development
The seven-year battle between environmentalists and the developers of planned golf course community Mirasol has a new chapter: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed to give Mirasol the needed permit to proceed, the Naples Daily News reports. Environmental groups including Audubon, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation said they are planning to appeal the permit because of concerns for nearby protected areas (including the endangered wildlife there) and damage to wetlands.
In the midst of the excitement over the manatee downlisting being delayed, Floridians seem to have missed other state wildlife agency decision making — namely, gopher tortoises and bald eagles.
People who want to develop land where gopher tortoises live won’t be allowed to buy permits to bury the tortoises alive anymore and must relocate them. Their status is also going to be “uplisted” from species of special concern to threatened (one step down from endangered). Some tortoise advocates, though, are concerned the rule to relocate tortoises won’t be as effective in small parcels of land that are being developed, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. One tortoise expert in the article says the state’s new laws about developing tortoise habitat are too vague and that the state will probably have trouble enforcing the new rules when it comes to individual lots.
The state wildlife agency also approved the draft of a new management plan for bald eagles that takes them off the state endangered list altogether — if approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The bald eagle would continue to be protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the FWC said.
Does building a new airport benefit the public interest more than preserving wetlands? Some people say yes, according to this St. Petersburg Times article. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to allow the construction of an airport northwest of Panama City Beach to destroy 2,000 acres of wetlands in order to build the 4,000-acre site, the article reports. The Corps and the state reportedly think the loss of the wetlands is a fair exchange for the St. Joe Company’s pledge to preserve 9,000 acres southeast of the new airport. (How much of that 9,000 acres is wetlands, I wonder?) There are many other factors involved, including the location of the current Panama City Beach airport and economic factors, all detailed in the article.
I was lucky enough to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands — all three of them (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix) — two years ago when it was particularly dry. On St. Thomas, I spoke with a friendly local who said conserving water there is so important because there isn’t a lot of fresh water to go around. Everyone collects rain in cisterns. She said you have to be careful how you use your water because when your cistern is dry, you’re out of water.
What does this have to do with Florida? Well, I guess just that it’s an idea we Floridians could be putting to use. Also, reading this Palm Beach Post article about water managers saying no to new development because of lack of water reminded me of my visit to St. Thomas. The article points out recent situations when the South Florida Water Management District has recommended against new development because the water isn’t there for the new residents: “…The district can’t tell cities and counties how much development to allow. But it can demand that they rely on water sources that won’t harm the environment, even if that drastically drives up the costs of growth.”
I don’t know anything about cisterns, but collecting rain sounds like a “water source that won’t harm the environment.”
When it comes to land conservation (as with so many things), you win some and you lose some.
Looks like Pasco County and its bears are going to win some.
A St. Petersburg Times article reports the county is expected to buy 210 acres of Florida black bear habitat that was originally going to be the site of 200 houses. The developer had a contract and everything — but after the contract changed hands, he changed his mind.
The county is likely to approve of the land purchase later this month.
Finally! The last day of this month is the last day the state will allow developers to submit permits for the “incidental take” (aka death) of gopher tortoises when building on and paving over gopher tortoise burrows, according to this Sun Herald article. Many people have been concerned about such permits since the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission started offering them in 1991. Now, the FWC will require the tortoises to be relocated so they aren’t buried alive in their burrows.
The article points out that tortoises’ burrows are used by other wildlife species, however — but stopping tortoise entombment is a start.