[Federal Register: January 31, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 20)]
[Page 5066-5067]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice of Availability Technical/Agency Draft of the Third 
Revision of the Florida Panther Recovery Plan for Review and Comment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of document availability and public comment period.


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service announces the availability of 
the Technical/Agency Draft of the Third Revision of the Florida Panther 
Recovery Plan. The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) has 
disappeared from more than 95 percent of its historic range as a result 
of human persecution and habitat loss. This draft of the recovery plan 
includes specific recovery objectives and criteria to be met in order 
to reclassify (downlist) and eventually delist the Florida panther 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). The Service 
solicits review and comment on this draft recovery plan.

DATES: In order to be considered, we must receive comments on the draft 
recovery plan on or before April 3, 2006.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Technical/Agency Draft of the Third Revision 
of the Florida Panther Recovery Plan can be obtained by contacting the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Ecological Services 
Office, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 32960 (772-562-3909) or 
by visiting our Web sites at http://endangered.fws.gov or http://verobeach.fws.gov.
 If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments 
by either of two methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and materials to the Field 
Supervisor, at the above address.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our South Florida 
Ecological Services Office, 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida 
32960, or fax your comments to (772) 562-4288.
    Comments and materials received are available for public inspection 
on request, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Belden at the South Florida 
Ecological Services Office, (772) 562-3909, ext. 237.



    Restoring listed animals and plants to the point where they are 
again secure, self-sustaining components of their ecosystems is a 
primary goal of our threatened and endangered species program. To help 
guide the recovery effort, we prepare recovery plans for listed species 
native to the United States, pursuant to section 4(f) of the Act, 
unless such a plan would not promote the conservation of a particular 
species. Recovery plans describe actions that may be necessary for 
conservation of the species, establish criteria for reclassification 
from endangered to threatened status or removal from the list of 
threatened and endangered species, and estimate the time and cost for 
implementing the needed recovery measures.
    The Florida panther is the last subspecies of Puma still surviving 
in the eastern United States. Historically occurring throughout the 
southeastern United States, today the panther is restricted to less 
than 5 percent of its historic range in one breeding population of 
fewer than 100 animals, located in south Florida.
    The panther is threatened with extinction, and human development in 
panther habitat negatively impacts recovery. Panthers are wide ranging, 
secretive, and occur at low densities. They require large contiguous 
areas to meet their social, reproductive, and energetic needs. Panther 
habitat selection is related to prey availability (i.e., habitats that 
make prey vulnerable to stalking and capturing are selected). Limiting 
factors for the panther are habitat availability, prey availability, 
and lack of human tolerance.
    Habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation are among the greatest 
threats to panther survival, while human intolerance of panthers is one 
of the greatest threats to their recovery. Vehicle strikes and problems 
associated with being a single, small, isolated population have 
continued to keep the panther population at its current low numbers. 
Potential panther habitat throughout the Southeast continues to be 
affected by urbanization, residential development, conversion to 
agriculture and silviculture, mining and mineral

[[Page 5067]]

exploration, and lack of land use planning that recognizes panther 
needs. Public opinion is critical to attainment of recovery goals and 
reintroduction efforts. Addressing social opposition to panthers will 
be the most difficult aspect of panther recovery and must be resolved 
before reintroduction efforts are initiated.
    The Service issued the first Florida Panther Recovery Plan in 1981. 
The plan was revised in 1987 and 1995. In 2001, the Service initiated 
the current process to revise the plan a third time. Section 4(f) of 
the Act requires that a public notice and an opportunity for public 
review and comment be provided during recovery plan development. 
Accordingly, the Technical/Agency Draft of the Third Revision of the 
Florida Panther Recovery Plan is being made available for public review 
and comment before a decision is made on its approval.
    The strategy for Florida panther recovery sets an intermediate goal 
of downlisting from endangered to threatened with the ultimate goal of 
delisting. To achieve both the intermediate and ultimate goals, the 
recovery plan identifies three objectives which, collectively, describe 
the conditions necessary to achieve recovery. These objectives are:
    1. Maintain, restore, and expand the Florida panther population and 
its habitat in south Florida and, if feasible, expand the known 
occurrence of Florida panthers north of the Caloosahatchee River to 
maximize the probability of the long-term persistence of this 
    2. Identify, secure, maintain, and restore habitat in potential 
reintroduction areas within the panther's historic range, and establish 
viable populations of the panther outside south and south-central 
    3. Facilitate panther conservation and recovery through public 
awareness and education.
    To realize these objectives for downlisting and delisting, this 
plan presents objective, measurable criteria that when met would result 
in a determination that delisting is warranted. These criteria are 
based on the number of individuals and number of populations that 
provide for demographically and genetically viable populations as 
determined by several population viability analyses to ensure 
resilience to catastrophic events. The threats to the Florida panther 
will need to be addressed to attain these criteria.
    Downlisting of the Florida panther should be considered when:
    1. Two viable populations of at least 240 individuals (adults and 
subadults) each have been established and subsequently maintained for a 
minimum of 14 years (or two generations).
    2. Sufficient habitat quality, quantity, and spatial configuration 
to support these populations is retained/protected or secured in the 
long term.
    Delisting of the Florida panther should be considered when:
    1. Three viable, self-sustaining populations of at least 240 
individuals (adults and subadults) each have been established and 
subsequently maintained for a minimum of fourteen years.
    2. Sufficient habitat quality, quantity, and spatial configuration 
to support these populations is retained/protected or secured in the 
    A viable population, for purposes of Florida panther recovery, has 
been defined as one in which there is a 95 percent probability of 
persistence for 100 years. This population may be distributed in a 
metapopulation structure composed of subpopulations that total the 
appropriate number of individuals. There must be exchange of 
individuals and gene flow among subpopulations. For downlisting, 
exchange of individuals and gene flow can be either natural or through 
management. If managed, a commitment to such management must be 
formally documented and funded. For delisting, exchange of individuals 
and gene flow among subpopulations must be natural (i.e., not 
manipulated or managed). Habitat should be in relatively unfragmented 
blocks that provide for food, shelter, and characteristic movements 
(e.g., hunting, breeding, dispersal, and territorial behavior) and 
support each metapopulation at a density of 2 to 3 animals per 100 
square miles (259 square kilometers), resulting in a minimum of 8,000 
to 12,000 square miles (20,720 to 31,080 square kilometers) per 
metapopulation of 240 panthers.

Public Comments Solicited

    We solicit written comments on the recovery plan described. We will 
consider all comments received by the date specified above prior to a 
decision on final approval of the revised recovery plan.
    Our practice is to make all comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home addresses from the record, which we will honor to the extent 
allowable by law. In some circumstances, we would withhold also from 
the record a respondent's identity, as allowable by law. If you wish 
for us to withhold your name and/or address, you must state this 
prominently at the beginning of your comments. However, we will not 
consider anonymous comments. We will make all submissions from 
organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying 
themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or 
businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety.


    The authority for this action is section 4(f) of the Endangered 
Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1533(f).

    Dated: January 11, 2006.
Cynthia K. Dohner,
Acting Regional Director, Southeast Region.
[FR Doc. 06-825 Filed 1-30-06; 8:45 am]