Keeping Conservation lands
Substantial public outcry in the form of GIS analyses, written comments and verbal testimony from Defenders and many other entities compelled the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to cease its effort to identify public conservation lands that could be sold to generate funds to buy other conservation tracts. The agency will shift its focus to potential sales of non-conservation state properties, such as buildings, as a means to fund Florida Forever land acquisition. DEP spent six months reviewing more than 3 million acres of conservation land to determine what could be surplussed, ultimately affirming the validity of the Florida Forever program by showing that the selection process over the past decades was sound.
Give Panthers a Brake
Throughout March 2013, Defenders and Panther Citizen Assistance Taskforce volunteers held table displays at the Florida Panthers NHL hockey team games at the BB&T arena in Sunrise (a suburb of Fort Lauderdale), to provide information on panthers to fans attending games and other events. Thanks to our supporters, we were able to fund a huge advertising blitz in the stadium to remind drivers to slow down on Florida’s roads. Our message was displayed on the scoreboard, the giant video screen at the entrance, even on the radio during home games, all to get the word out to visitors and residents that the real panthers – the four-legged ones – need a BRAKE!
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Important Parcel Protected Along the Caloosahatchee River Protected
In May 2012, a multi-year effort involving a complex set of negotiations among agencies, organizations and landowners resulted in the purchase of the American Prime/Lone Ranger Forge property in the Florida panther dispersal zone, an action Defenders has strongly advocated for.
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New Wildlife Refuge Provides Key Panther Habitat
In January 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced the creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Nearly 47,000 Defenders activists sent messages to the FWS in support of this proposal. In addition to improving water quality, the proposed conservation area and refuge would protect important habitat for 88 federal and state listed species, including the Florida panther, Florida black bear and whooping crane.
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Planning for I-75 Interchange at Everglades Boulevard Suspended
Defenders was a key player in a successful, sustained effort to stop the construction of a new interchange on Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) that crosses the Big Cypress/Everglades ecosystem. The proposed interchange would have led to the destruction of 10,000 acres of panther habitat, severed important wildlife corridors, compromised Everglades restoration in the Picayune Strand, encouraged urban sprawl and exacerbated vehicle collisions near the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). In 2012, the Federal Highways Administration and Florida Department of Transportation determined that a new interchange could not be justified and county officials voted to shelve plans for the project until at least 2021. We will continue to advocate for protection of panther habitat, wildlife corridors and wetland systems near the proposed interchange to enhance habitat connectivity for Picayune, Florida Panther NWR and North Belle Meade.
Defenders sponsored a three-day consent building training workshop for about 30 personnel from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service and Defenders. Trainers from the Institute for Participatory Management and Planning worked with participants to address human dimensions challenges associated with panther restoration and helped agencies develop skills for working with stakeholders and building consensus. The knowledge and abilities developed during the workshop will help the FWS Florida Panther Recovery Implementation Team produce an action plan for identifying and reaching out to potentially affected stakeholders.
Watch Out for Wildlife
At Defenders’ urging, in 2011 Florida Governor Rick Scott proclaimed September 18-24 “Watch Out For Wildlife Awareness Week,” to raise awareness of the dangers that people and wildlife encounter on our roadways and promote solutions that increase driver alertness and safe driving practices.
In 2011, Defenders led a group to improve safe passage at CR 832/Keri Road, where nine panthers have been killed since 1996. These efforts resulted in the county designating 5.25 miles of the road in Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest as a slow speed nighttime panther zone, improving state enforcement of the speed limit and helping increase public awareness about fostering safe passage for panthers and other wildlife.
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Passage for Panthers
In March 2010, thanks to the hard work of Defenders of Wildlife and government agencies, the Florida panther secured new hope for safe passage across a dangerous highway that runs through Big Cypress National Preserve.
In January 2010, we hosted a Carnivore Conservation Workshop with an invited group of U.S. and international experts in the fields of carnivore reestablishment and the human dimensions of wildlife management. The workshop aimed at understanding lessons learned from other reestablishment efforts and taking the first steps in preparing for panther range expansion.
Puma concolor coryi
Height: 23-27 inches at the shoulder for males; females are smaller.
Length: Males, 7 feet from nose to tip of tail; females, 6 feet
Weight: Males average 130 lbs; females 70-75 lbs
Lifespan: 10-15 years