Broward News

FLA Fish & Wildlife (hearts) Turtles, (hates) Panthers

The permitting system also got a little easier for Florida's gopher tortoises this week. Lauderdale-based AAJ Technologies has invented an on-line permit system for Florida Fish and Wildlife which allows developers to certify the site as either a short-term or long-term protected site and apply for faster approvals to move the reptiles, which are not known themselves for particularly speedy relocation. Because the system is "paperless," it is not only "green," the buzzword most often tripping from the tongues of Florida pols and flacks these days, but will hasten the pace and presumably decrease gopher tortoise homicides in the process.

But even while tortoises were scoring big, things are still looking dire for the Florida panther. In 2004, a biologist who worked for the Fish and Wildlife Services for 18 years, Andrew Eller, Jr. charged that the agency used flawed data when assessing the habitat of the panther, approving building permits for thousands of acres that ought to have been protected. They also knowingly disseminated inaccurate information, Eller testified. Eller was fired and later reinstated after an investigation, but critics these days are worried that Obama's nomination of Sam Hamilton last month to lead Fish and Wildlife is not bound to improve things for the panther. A 2005 PEER survey of 1400 Fish and Wildlife biologists found that half of scientists surveyed felt that under Hamilton "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention," a long way of saying that in Florida the race goes to the developers, and it's not exactly a photo finish. One supervisor at F&W called Hamilton's tenure "a dog and pony show." Another said: "Florida has become a horror show for wildlife biologists."

Looks like our cats will be jumping through the hoops.

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd