Twelve-year federal review puts more than 100,000 acres of habitat at risk

“The Eastern Collier Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan is an ambitious, forward-looking option to protect essential habitat that Florida panthers and many other species need for survival and recovery. Urban growth will still occur without the HCP, but with fewer conservation benefits than would be required by the HCP. Defenders of Wildlife remains committed to working with the landowners and FWS to make an HCP a reality. We strongly support a long-range plan that aims to secure the incredible biological diversity of this region well into the future.”

Collier County, Fla.

Like many parts of the Sunshine State, Southwest Florida is experiencing exponential growth, and the accompanying urban development and expanding roadway networks are putting vital habitat for the endangered Florida panther and many other wildlife species at risk. To protect habitat, Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation groups have been working with private landowners in the region for 15 years to help establish a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). Unfortunately, much of all the work is threatening to unravel due to prolonged inaction by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that is causing landowners to back out of the HCP. 

“The Eastern Collier Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan is an ambitious, forward-looking option to protect essential habitat that Florida panthers and many other species need for survival and recovery,” said Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative at Defenders of Wildlife. "Urban growth will still occur without the HCP, but with fewer conservation benefits than would be required by the HCP. Defenders of Wildlife remains committed to working with the landowners and FWS to make an  HCP a reality. We strongly support a long-range plan that aims to secure the incredible biological diversity of this region well into the future.”  

Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon Florida, Audubon of the Western Everglades and the Florida Wildlife Federation have been collaborating with agencies and private landowners for many years to achieve a development and conservation balance that protects wildlife and large areas of interconnected habitat in Collier County and beyond. Decades of work resulted in the initiation of an HCP in 2010, that, if finalized, would protect 107,000 acres and 19 federally and state-listed species including the Florida panther. This plan was agreed to by 12 landowners, and it has been under review by FWS for 12 years.  

HCPs are designed to minimize and mitigate cumulative impacts on protected species within a large landscape. Without this specific HCP that envisioned a 50-year planning horizon, development applications will not benefit from a cumulative review. Instead, they will move forward on a project-by-project basis. This piecemeal approach lacks comprehensive, big-picture federal oversight and has resulted in large-scale habitat loss, fragmentation and urban sprawl throughout Florida.  

Given the tremendous importance of the private lands in eastern Collier County as habitat for the Florida panther and many other species, Defenders of Wildlife and our conservation partners will continue our decades-long work to make sure that wildlife habitat and linkages in this vast region are protected well into the future.   

 

Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

Communications Specialist
karberg@defenders.org
(202) 772-0259

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