Appeal filed on Florida panther habitat
A coalition of environmental groups has returned to court to defend the Florida panther’s shrinking South Florida territory, hoping to force to the federal government to make it harder to develop the land.
The had originally sought to designate 1.3 million acres of South Florida, including the western fringes of Broward and Palm Beach counties, as critical habitat for the panther, making it harder to develop, mine or alter the land in any way. Although about two thirds already has protection as state or federal conservation land, the rest is in private hands.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused their petition, the groups sued and a federal judge upheld the wildlife service’s refusal, finding that the law allowed but did not compel the agency to designate critical habitat.
“We have studies from scientists that have spelled out very clearly what land is necessary for the Florida panther to survive,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that filed the appeal. “The Endangered Species Act is a muscular law that was written specifically to ensure that the Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t merely observe an extinction in progress but took steps to avert it.”
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