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Revised Environmental Assessment for Interagency Florida Panther Response Plan Available

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 2, 2007


Contacts:

Layne Hamilton, Florida Panther NWR, 239-353-8442, Ext. 227


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the availability of a revised Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Interagency Florida Panther Response Plan (Federal Register Volume 72, Number 212, Pages 62256-62257).

This response plan establishes guidelines for responding to and managing potential interactions between people and Florida panthers and for educating the public about appropriate behavior when living and recreating in panther habitat.

“The Service, the National Park Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are ensuring public safety by establishing protocols for responding to possible encounters between humans and panthers,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “At the same time, we also are trying to address the conservation needs of this critically endangered animal mainly found south of Lake Okeechobee.”

Florida’s urban and suburban growth has expanded into panther habitat. Concurrently, recovery actions increased the Florida panther population from 20 to 30 animals to about 80 to 100 animals in 2007. Meanwhile, Florida’s human population grew from 14.2 million people in 1995 to an estimated 17.8 million people in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This situation increases the possibility of interaction between people and panthers. Definitive guidelines and instructions were needed to allow for panther conservation and public safety.

There has never been a documented attack of a Florida panther on a human, but they have taken livestock and pets.

A copy of the revised EA for the Interagency Florida Response Plan can be found at http://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/

The draft EA was published in May 2006, for public comments that were taken into consideration. Comments were also solicited from the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Several issues and concerns were identified through tribal and public comments, peer reviews, and discussions between the three agencies involved. Revisions to the EA and plan include: (1) adding discussion of cultural resource impacts to the local tribes; (2) eliminating the first two chapters (Chapter 1: Florida Panther – Status, Biology and Recovery; Chapter 2: Living with Florida Panthers) of the plan ( 3) reorganizing the plan to reduce redundancy and clarify management actions; (4) separating of the section on depredation from the other human-panther classifications (sighting(s), encounter(s), incidents, threat, attack) because depredations are distinctly different from direct human-panther interactions; and, (5) including a risk factor with each classification.

Written comments on the EA should be sent to the Service’s Field or Regional Office by December 3, 2007. The revised EA will be considered final if substantive comments are not received

Obtain a written copy of the EA or send comments to Layne Hamilton, Refuge Manager, Florida Panther and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuges, 3860 Tollgate Blvd., Suite 300, Naples, Florida 34114, telephone 239/353-8442, ext. 227, or Elizabeth Souheaver, Southeast Regional Office, Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Suite 420, Atlanta, Georgia 30345, telephone 404-679-7163 or fax 404-679-4082 . E-mails can be sent to pantherresponseplan@fws.gov If sending an e-mail, please include name and complete address.


EA for the Interagency Florida Response Plan

 


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/southeast or http://www.fws.gov/.



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