From Plants to Panthers: Endangered Species News
If you've got somethin' to say about the fragrant prickly-apple or the pygmy fringe-tree, now is your time. The Fish and Wildlife Service is doing a five-year status review of these endangered species, as well as the Brooksville bellflower, snakeroot, Cooley's water-willow, scrub blazingstar, Britton's beargrass, Key tree-cactus, Lewton's polygala, wireweed, sandlace, Chapman's rhododendron, and Florida torreya. Anyone interested in speaking up about species populations or threats to these species' habitats should check out the FWS page here.
In other endangered species news this week, five Florida Congressmen wrote to President Obama, asking him to designate "critical habitat" for the Florida panther. The species was first listed as endangered 42 years ago, and only about 80 to 100 panthers are presumed alive today. Though the critter itself is protected, the land it lives on is encroached by development.
However, bulldozing developers need not lose any sleep. As the representatives -- Hastings, Wexler, Klein, Grayson, and Brown -- noted in their letter, "a designation of critical habitat does not mean that no further development is allowed in an area, it simply requires additional review when projects requiring federal permits would impact habitats considered essential to preventing the Florida panther from going extinct."
Unfortunately, that means it's kind of toothless. The move would do nothing to stop private landowners from building, and according to the federal government's own literature, the critical habitat designation is only "a reminder to federal agencies" who might be working in panther territory that they should protect the habitat. Asked if they could do anything more for the panther, Lale Mamaux, a spokeswoman in Rep. Hastings' office, said, "We're looking at legislative options but immediately, to call the president's attention to this matter would be significant." President Obama, she says, has the authority to make the critical habitat designation with little more than the swipe of a pen. She said the letter to Obama was prompted not by any lobbying group but by Hastings' own concerns when he heard that three panthers were killed by cars in January alone.
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