This weekend brought good news for the big cats of the southeast, just in time for this year’s Save the Florida Panther Week!
Legislators this month introduced a bill that would have allowed developers to build five golf courses in state parks throughout Florida. It was a move that threatened the parks and the rich array of wildlife that call them home — not only would it pave the way (quite literally) for future development of hotels, malls and other amenities to complement the courses, but golf courses themselves are notoriously unfriendly for the environment.
For one thing, golf courses are a huge drain on water resources, particularly in a state that frequently suffers drought. Add to the mix chemical fertilizers and pesticides, loudly whirring lawnmowers and increased traffic, and those 18 holes can be pretty disruptive. And who can say that the first five courses wouldn’t lead to five more? Funds and personnel for land, water and wildlife management in the state are already limited. The additional tasks of golf course grooming and facilities maintenance would make conservation efforts even more difficult.
Fortunately, it didn’t take lawmakers long to see the light. The proposal was withdrawn only a week after its introduction, thanks to public outcry at the ill-advised plan. The South-Florida Sun Sentinel put it simply when it said of the Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail, “Don’t get us wrong. We love golf. Just not in state parks.”
Habitat loss due to development continues to be one of the biggest threats facing Florida panthers today. As the population slowly recovers, it is critical that the far-ranging cats have freedom to roam. Defenders is working to protect existing panther habitat throughout the state, as well as pursuing opportunities to return the cats to their historic range. As part of the Florida Panther Protection Program, we’re partnering with conservation groups and private landowners to protect large areas of private lands and connections to public conservation areas for the big cats as they head towards the road to recovery.
This weekend’s victory is a win not only for Florida panthers but a whole range of wildlife that call state parks home. And as Defenders’ Laurie Macdonald puts it, “This time, the appropriate eagle has won the game.”
This year, people are celebrating Save the Florida Panther Week all across the Sunshine State. Click here for more information.