Environmental groups file lawsuit to get Florida Panther habitat protection

02/18/10 Virginia Hoffman
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Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a request to designate parts of South Florida as critical habitat for the Florida panther. Today in Sarasota, environmental groups announced they have responded with a lawsuit.

The national Sierra Club and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida had petitioned for panther habitat to be protected. Eric Huber is a senior staff attorney with the Sierra Club.

Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, called the failure to designate the critical habitat a scandal and said it is clear the Florida Panther will become extinct unless immediate steps are taken to protect its last remaining habitat.

During a press conference in Sarasota this morning, the Sierra Club’s president, Alison Shin, said that their National Organization’s meeting here was timely with it taking place so soon after a panther sighting at the Carlton Reserve.

Panther habitat lies within the Carlton Reserve and north of the Caloosahatchee River. Carlton and two adjacent areas are required to maintain even a critically low panther population. The last Panther was sighted in the reserve in 2001.

Debbie Blanco held a plaster cast of a paw print from a panther sighting from earlier this month.

Volunteers at the Carlton Reserve will continue to monitor the five video cameras, which record animal activity hoping for another peek at the endangered cat as the lawsuit unfolds.

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