For Immediate Release
January 14, 2004
Release #: 001-04
Florida: Chuck Underwood, 904-731-3332
Alabama: Mike Groutt, 251-441-6630
Georgia: Mike Hobbs, 706-613-9493 ext. 36
U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE REAFFIRMS DECISION
FOR 1998 FLORIDA BLACK BEAR PETITION FINDING
After re-examining its 1998 determination not to list the Florida
black bear as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today reaffirmed
the determination. The notice of this action was published in today’s Federal
Under the Endangered Species Act, five criteria are considered when the
Service decides whether to list a species as threatened or endangered. As the
result of a legal challenge to the 1998 determination, the U.S. District Court
for the District of Columbia ordered the Service to re-examine one of the five
criteria used in deciding whether to list the Florida black bear. According to
that criteria, if regulatory mechanisms in place to protect the bear had been
found inadequate, listing the bear as threatened may have been warranted.
"As directed by the court, a new examination of the regulatory mechanisms has
shown that Federal and State laws, regulations, and policies which existed at
the time of the finding were, and continue to be, adequate to prevent levels of
death, habitat loss and habitat degradation that could threaten the species with
extinction," Southeast Regional Director Sam D. Hamilton said.
The ESA defines "threatened species" as any species likely to become an
endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant
portion of its range.
In response to a citizen petition to list the bear as threatened, the Service
found that listing the Florida black bear was not warranted because healthy bear
populations, ranging between an estimated 1,600 to 3,000 individuals, occur in
secure habitat in four areas: Apalachicola National Forest and adjacent lands,
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge–Osceola National Forest and adjacent lands,
Ocala National Forest and adjacent lands, and Big Cypress National Preserve and
Several environmental organizations challenged the Service’s determination in
1999. Subsequently, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld
most aspects of the Service’s original 1998 finding, but directed the Service to
reexamine and clarify its previous decision regarding the "inadequacy of
regulatory mechanisms" listing criteria under the Endangered Species Act.
A subspecies of the wide-ranging American black bear, the Florida black bear
occurs only in Florida and the coastal plain areas of Alabama and Georgia.
Generally found in forested areas, it eats mostly plant foods, such as berries
and acorns. Because black bears prefer areas that are remote from human
activities, the species now occurs primarily on and adjacent to public
conservation lands such as national forests, national wildlife refuges, and
The Florida black bear is listed as threatened by the State of Florida. The
species is a game animal in both Alabama and Georgia. These designations provide
for State regulation of hunting and protection against illegal killing of bears.
More than 374,000 acres of bear habitat have been purchased in Florida by
State and Federal governments since the early 1990s, within areas supporting
four core bear populations. Total public lands supporting bears have grown to
more than three million acres and have helped secure the population. Agencies
entrusted with the care of bears are managing these public lands. These agencies
include the Service, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Eglin Air Force
Base, Georgia Forestry Commission, Florida’s water management districts,
Florida Division of Forestry, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Florida Department of Environmental
Additional information is available online at:
It may also be obtained by writing to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attn: Fla.
Black Bear, 6620 Southpoint Dr. South, Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32216.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants
and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The
Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which
encompasses more than 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands
and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish
hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field
stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered
Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant
fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps
foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the
Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise
taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.