The Florida panther’s survival depends on the protection of remaining undeveloped lands throughout its habitat—including lands under
federal, state, and private jurisdiction. But a large portion of remaining panther habitat is already slated for development, and
protected only by an inadequate Habitat Conservation Plan that will allow for development of tens of thousands of acres.
The Eastern Collier Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) covers nearly 180,000 acres that include the currently occupied
panther breeding range. The HCP paves the way for an Incidental Take Permit by which the FWS authorizes developers to “take”—harass,
harm, or kill—the panther or other protected species as they modify, pave over, and develop their habitat. The HCP is supposed to
outline ways in which the developers—Alico Inc and Barron Collier—plan to minimize and avoid impacts on protected wildlife, or,
where avoidance is not possible, mitigate impacts so as to result in no net loss of habitat. But the HCP, far from avoiding impacts,
allows for development in the areas most critical for panther survival, even where alternatives are available.
In addition, the HCP:
- Ignores impacts from three large mining projects planned for within the development area
- Ignores impacts from the planned construction of over 100 miles of new or expanded roads within the development area
- Assumes that the entire 132,000 acre land area not planned for development will be preserved, with no consideration of the wildlife impacts
from oil and gas exploration, intensified agriculture and ranching, and ORV use in this area
- Does not quantify impacts to all listed species within the development area, or address the protection of habitat for listed species
other than the panther (including the wood stork, red-cockaded woodpecker, and state-listed gopher tortoise).
Take action now to ensure that the Obama Administration jettisons this inadequate HCP and protects habitat sufficient to ensure a full recovery.