Forests would be razed for housing developments, shopping centers and industrial areas for sand and gravel mining, bringing in an estimated 300,000 new residents and creating several new small cities. Of the 40,000 acres that would be used for this project, about 20,000 cut into the Florida panther’s home in the wild, where they roam and hunt.
It’s estimated that the remaining population of Florida panthers hovers just around 200. The biggest threat to their survival? Habitat destruction and fragmentation.
“The panther barely has a toehold in Florida now,” Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a nonprofit that advocates for native wildlife, told The Dodo. “To continue this type of development flies in the face of common sense.”
People are also worried about the extensive roads that will need to be built for the new developments. Florida panthers are all too often hit by cars and killed. Most recently, a 9-year-old female panther was killed by a car in December, and 29 of these cats were killed last year, mostly because of collisions with vehicles.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) needs to approve the plan before development can begin, so there’s still time to push back. But giving people a chance to speak up for the panther has been another challenge. Last year, the public had 45 days to comment on the plan, which felt all too short to conservationists when it ended in December. Some conservation groups filed to extend the public comment period — and were turned down.
The plan could be approved by the government as early as April — and fighting for the panther’s rights to the land is running short on time.
You can voice your opinion about the plan by contacting the FWS. You can also share the news and encourage your friends and family to speak up about the Florida panther.