Over the past few decades, Florida’s forests and swamps have made way for housing developments and mini-malls. This, undoubtedly, has had serious consequences for wildlife, including Florida’s prized state animal, the panther.
With a population of no more than 130, wild panthers occupy only 5% of their historic habitat. Unfortunately, the proposed construction of a power plant would shrink panther habitat by more than 3,000 acres.
The proposed power plant outraged a local activist, and prompted her to create a petition to protect panther habitat. We spoke with the petition author about her efforts to stop the construction of the power plant.
What prompted you to start this petition?
I read an article about it on Care2. Right away I felt something go off in my head. Here I am living in Florida, and this man is about to come in here and destroy over 3,000 acres of Florida panther habitat. I just couldn’t sit there and read it without taking action. I immediately started writing the petition.
Florida’s rapid development has had serious consequences for panther habitat. Do you think the attitude towards panthers has shifted since the housing market has declined? If so, how?
I believe the attitude towards the panthers has changed because there is no need to buy additional land for development. There are thousands of vacant homes and commercial buildings in South Florida now. Before the housing market crashed, land became so valuable it was being bought so fast that people didn’t even stop and care if it would affect the environment. Now, this lull in development has the given Florida the opportunity to become the Eco-tourism state that it should be. I do have great concern over Florida’s new Governor. He has made it clear that he will not be helping preserve lands for endangered animals. In fact, he wants to dismantle all the state environmental laws that had been enacted since 1969. Now more that ever, it is up to us to fight for the protection of animals and the environment.
Why do you think Floridians should be concerned with protecting panther habitat?
First of all, the panther is the state animal for Florida. That should be the major reason. We should want to protect our state animal. The government should care more too! Secondly, there are only about 100 or so left. Some people don’t even consider them endangered anymore. They are extinct. I believe that is because people feel that they will just die out. There is no hope left for them. But we cannot just give up that easily! This may be the last chance we ever have to fight for the panthers. We need to protect them from ourselves. Without habitat they are forced to cross busy roads which almost always results in death. Then need a home just like we need a home.
How have you been promoting the petition?
I have been promoting it by sharing it on Care2, posting it in news articles, emails. I have even wrote to the Sierra Club, the Friends of Florida Panther Refuge, and South Florida Wildlands Association asking them if they will post my petition on their website. The President of the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge wrote back. He is actually going to bring my petition to a board meeting in the second week of June to oppose the building of this power plant!
What has the response been so far?
The response is a lot better that I thought it would be. I created this petition only about a week ago and as of right now I have 860 signatures. But we need more! I want to at least get 3,000. The more people against this power plant, the better.
What are your goals for the petition?
My goal for this petition is to make Edward Garcia change the location of this power plant he wants to build, or just not build it at all. The main point is to not destroy 3,127 acres of Florida panther habitat because it is vital to their existence.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to add that the Florida panther is not the only endangered species living in this area that the power plant is to be built in. There are three more endangered species that reside on this land. They are the Audubon’s crested caracara, the Eastern indigo snake, and the Wood Stork. Even more reason not to build the power plant. Also, thank you so much for taking interest in this cause. It is so important to protect these beautiful animals. I only wish more people cared about animals in this world.
TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition to protect Florida panther habitat.
Photo credit: Istock