Citation
In consideration of a species

Material Information

Title:
In consideration of a species policy, politics, and personalities--goal displacement in the Florida panther recovery effort
Creator:
Tucker, Donna Walrath
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
110 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Florida panther ( lcsh )
Wildlife recovery -- Florida ( lcsh )
Florida panther ( fast )
Management ( fast )
Wildlife recovery ( fast )
Management -- Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (Fla.) ( lcsh )
Florida ( fast )
Florida -- Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 103-110).
Thesis:
Public administration
General Note:
School of Public Affairs
Statement of Responsibility:
by Donna Walrath Tucker.

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Auraria Library
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|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
50710224 ( OCLC )
ocm50710224
Classification:
LD1190.P86 2002m .T82 ( lcc )

Full Text
IN CONSIDERATION OF A SPECIES: POLICY, POLITICS, AND
PERSONALITIESGOAL DISPLACEMENT IN THE FLORIDA PANTHER
RECOVERY EFFORT
by
x Donna Walrath Tucker
B.A., Florida State University, 1979
B.A., University of Colorado at Boulder, 1999
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Public Administration
2002
Â¥---r-"-V-


This thesis for the Master of Public Administration
degree by
Donna Walrath Tucker
has been approved
by
/fp/r/
Date


Tucker, Donna Walrath (M.P.A., Public Administration)
In Consideration of a Species: Policy, Politics and PersonalitiesGoal
Displacement in the Florida Panther Recovery Effort
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Toddi A. Steelman
ABSTRACT
The Florida panther, like many other predators, is endangered
within its range. Recovery efforts beginning in 1981 to date
have done little to enhance the viability of this species.
Obstacles include: lack of leadership and coordination of
effort; failure to use science well; exclusion of private lands
in the recovery effort; and failure to secure high quality
habitat for the Florida panther. Recovery efforts involve: 1)
Locating and protecting remaining animals and enhancing
their habitats, and 2) Research on biological, demographic,
and genetic data needed to carry out the recovery effort. At
issue is what drives the Florida panther recovery effort:
politics and public relations or biology and habitat
requirements. Without absolute coordination and cooperation
of all stakeholders, the Florida panther recovery effort will
likely result in endless iterations of failed attempts to
establish three viable, self-sustaining populations of Felis
concolor coryi within its historic rangethe stated goal of all
Florida panther recovery efforts.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed
foddi A. Steelman
m


Nothing existed but the brown, clear water, flowing in one spot forever.
South Moon Under, Maijorie Kinnan Rawlings


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
In keeping with tradition, I would like to thank my academic advisor, Dr. Toddi
Steelman, now at North Carolina State University, for pushing me to improve both
my writing and my thinking. Dr. Steelman introduced me to A Preview of Policy
Sciences by Harold D. Lasswell; a theoretical model for problem solving that relies
on the very simple idea of problem orientation. It is a model that is both practical and
useful for analyzing problems in the policy sciences. I am also indebted to the staff at
the Graduate School of Public Affairs, particularly Antoinette Sandoval without
which I would not have made it through my program and Dean Kathleen Beatty of
GSPA for giving me a chance in the first place. I am a fourth generation Floridian,
having been bom, raised and educated in Florida. My parents, Douglas and Martha
Tucker and grandparents were active and interested in native species of South
Florida, specifically in the Everglades. I owe them a great debt for loving me from the
start and teaching me the importance of creating a life worth living. Most of all I want
to thank my partner of twenty-five years whose support and good humor enabled us
both to go to graduate school simultaneously. This is how I learned to listen to other
disciplines and marvel at how similar environmental policy is to history and the
humanities. I have great admiration for the many souls who are attempting to stabilize
the many natural landscapes that are Florida.


V
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Figures..................................................ix
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION
THE POLICY PROBLEMFLORIDA PANTHER
RECOVERY........1..................................1
Purpose of Paper, Methods, Authors Intent and
Perspective....................................1
Terms and Operational Definitions used in Florida
Panther Recovery Efforts.......................5
Introduction and Background- A Short History of the
Florida Panther................................7
The Policy Problem............................19
2. THE POLICY GOALS AND GOAL CLARIFICATION............24
3. TRENDS: ANALYSIS OF THE PROBLEM-
FIVE TRENDS LEADING AWAY FROM FLORIDA
PANTHER RECOVERY...................................31
Trend: Lack of High Quality Habitat for the Florida
Panther............................................33
Private LandownersThe Key to Survival........36
The Habitat Preservation Plan.................41
Trend: No Holistic Approach to Problem Solving: Lack
of Cooperation, Coordination and Public Participation
Within Agencies....................................44
VI


Agency Apartheid...................................48
Trend: Lack of Leadership in the Recovery Effort
the Importance of a Coordinated Response..............54
Trend: Failure to use Science Well....................57
Sport Hunting and Agency Management of the
White Tailed Deer...............................59
Trend: Uncertainty Regarding the Biology of the
Florida Panther.......................................66
Genetic Introgression and Out-breedingThe Captive
Breeding Program Held Captive Through Litigation...71
Unclear Definition Surrounding the Term Recovery.72
What is a Florida Panther?......................76
4. RECOMMENDATIONSA CONSIDERATION OF
THE ALTERNATIVES......................................79
High Quality Habitat for the Florida Panther..........79
New Strategies Targeting the Private Sector
A Proving Ground for Conservation Strategies
Private Organizations Experiment ...............80
Creativity and the Endangered Species ActThe
Promise of Section 4............................83
Citizen/Govemment Interactions: A Holistic Approach
to Panther Recovery...................................89
Management that Makes Sense: Agency Cooperation
and Coordination......................................89
Vll


5. CONCLUSIONS...............................91
APPENDIX
A. SURVEY QUESTIONS..........................97
B. FLORIDA PANTHER RECOVERY PLANS-TIMELINE..100
REFERENCES.........................................103
viii


FIGURES
Figures
1.1 Florida Panther in Big Cypress Swamp, Southwest
Florida (photo courtesy Everglades National Park)............2
1.2 Florida Panther in Big Cypress Swamp, Southwest
Florida (photo courtesy Everglades National Park)............4
1.3 Florida Panther Recovery Plan, Second Revision,
3/13/95, U.S.F.W.S. Southeast Region,
Atlanta, Georgia............................................10
1.4 Florida Counties (Source, South Florida Multi-Species
Recovery Plan prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, Southeast Region, 1999)............................12
3.1 Florida Panther Habitat Preservation Areas (Source,
South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan prepared
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region,
1999).......................................................40
IX


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
THE POLICY PROBLEMFLORIDA PANTHER RECOVERY
What we really needed was the appointment of a panther habitat lobbyistsomeone
knowledgeable about panthers, South Florida, ranch owners, and local politics
who could develop proposals to local, state, and federal governments that would
provide tax incentives, cash or other compensation for the voluntary protection of
key habitat. Such a program is not only feasible, it is necessary.
David S. Maehr
Purpose of Paper. Methods. Authors Intent and Perspective
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the current situation in Florida
regarding the recovery of endangered species, specifically, the Florida panther,
[Figure 1.1] known by its Latin binomial as Felis concolor coryi.1 I am interested in
this particular problem for several reasons; first, I am an unapologetic
conservationist who happens to be a native Floridian. In my lifetime I have watched
my native homeland be consumed by rampant development in the form of
monotonous strip malls, shopping centers, suburban housing projects, office parks,
theme parks, golf courses, resorts, condominiums ad infinitum. These projects
usually go forward without much regard to the wishes of extant Floridians or the
1 Bangs, O. (1898) The land mammals of peninsular Florida and the coast region of Georgia. Proc.
Boston Soc. Nat. His. 28:157-235.
1


critical needs of the non-human inhabitants of Florida, that which often makes
Florida desirable for development in the first place. This is my policy context.
2


The methodology that I employed to study the Florida panther as a policy
problem utilizes the case study approach augmented with participant observation,
extensive document analysis and personal interviews. Through the course of the
investigation, I employed telephone interviews, e-mail correspondence, in-person
interviews of people who have participated with Florida panther recovery efforts in
the past, and/or who are participating currently.
I interviewed ranchers, farmers and citrus growers as well as officials at the
Ford Motor Company who hold title to land critical to the survival of the Florida
panther. In addition, I have spoken to agency personnel at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, the Florida Department of Natural Resources, the Florida Game and
Freshwater Fish Commission, and the U.S. National Park Service among others. I
created a questionnaire to act as a template while tailoring questions to specific
individuals [see appendix A].
I conducted approximately twenty interviews over a two year time period.
These interviews were recorded on tape and transcribed. I also was a participant
observer in the Winter of 1999, tracking panthers in Fakahatchee Strand. I am most
sympathetic to the original team of biologists who fanned out into Southwest
Florida to generate data on the panthers habit and range. These individuals were the
least appreciated personnel in the chain of decision-making regarding the Florida
panther. [Figure 1.2]
3


Figure 1.2 Florida Panther in Big Cypress Swamp, Southwest Florida
(photo courtesy Everglades National Park)
4


Terms and Operational Definitions used in Florida
Panther Recovery Efforts
Florida Panther Recovery TeamFPRTa team of citizen experts and state
wildlife biologists The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formed this group in 1976 for
the purpose of writing a plan that would save the Florida panther from extinction.
Inexistence from 1976-1981.
Florida Panther Technical Advisory CouncilFPTACan independent body of
experts to advise the FPIC. This group included academics, biologists and others
independent of agencies involved in panther recovery. This group was created by
the Florida Legislature in 1983 in order to advise the Florida Game Commission on
best methodologies to avoid extinction of the Florida panther. Generally this group
is referred to as the Panther Advisory Council and still continues to function in an
advisory capacity today. [Mandated by law] 1983to current.
Florida Panther Interagency Committee-FPICthe appearance of a team of
cooperating agencies, pooling resources in an all-out campaign to save the panther.2
Formed in 1986, this group was appointed and funded by the Florida Game
Commission. Members of this group include biologists (David Maehr, Todd Logan,
Darrel Land, Jayde Roof, Walt McCown), a houndsman (Roy McBride) and
veterinarian (Melody Roelke) who initially were charged with locating panthers in
the wild and determining their range. [Ad hoc voluntary organization]
2 Ken Alvarez, from Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program, p.100.
5


Technical Sub-Committee (of the FPICTTSa body formed by the FPIC
presumably to advise it on technical aspects of panther recovery. The Technical
Subcommittee was formed from representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, the National Park Service, the Florida Department of Natural Resources,
and the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. Members are delegated
from the four agencies listed above.
The Captive Breeding Specialists Group, a private consulting firm run by retired
Endocrinologist, Ulysses S. Seal, was retained by the U.S.F.W.S. in 1990 to advise
the Service on the removal of adult and juvenile panthers from the wild. Presumably
these animals would be removed in order to establish a captive population of
panthers which would be bred in captivity in order to increase overall panther
numbers. Seal and his associates devised a model of extinction called VORTEX
designed to forecast the survival potential of a species.
Florida pantherusually refers to the variety of puma named Felis concolor coryi,
which inhabits South Florida cypress hammocks, pine woods and salt marshes. It is
usually identified morphologically by a crooked tail, white flecks of hair (possibly
from tick bites) on the anterior neck, and a whorl of hair or cowlick on its back.3
U.S.F.W.S.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
N.P.S.U.S. National Park Service
3 Belden, R.C. (1989) The Florida Panther (originally published as: Audubon
Wildlife report) National Audubon Society. New York pp.513-532.
6


D.N.R.Florida Department of Natural Resources
G.F.C.Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission
Introduction and Background- A Short History of the
Florida Panther
A cadre of natural resource professionals are being marshaled worldwide in
an effort to recover or reintroduce species that are on the brink of extinction. Society
in general wishes to preserve endangered species as evidenced by the passage of the
Endangered Species Act in 1973. How then, as a society, should we approach this
task? The Florida panther is an instructive case study within the context of an
endangered species recovery effort. The Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi) is a
predator endangered within its range, and reduced to a single population of between
30-50 adults.4 Panther recovery activities to date have done little to restore this
dwindling population despite the expenditure of millions of dollars by the State of
Florida and the Federal government.5 How did we get here?
To better understand the Florida panther of today, it is necessary to review
the history and patterns of habitation for South Florida. The History of Florida6 in
4 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1987. Florida Panther (Felis concolor coryi) Recovery Plan.
Prepared by the Florida Panther Interagency Committee for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Atlanta Georgia. 75pp.
5 U.S. GAO Report Endangered Species: Management Improvements Could Enhance Recovery
Program.
7


relation to the panther is really the history of European settlement juxtaposed
against the decline of individual species. As human population rises, habitat shrinks
and species decline. In 1500, biologists estimate approximately 1,360 panthers in
Florida, based on the carrying capacity of the white tailed deer, a dominant food
source for the panther. By 1860, Floridas human population reached 140,424. By
1880 the human population of Florida almost doubled to 269,494. By 1920, the
human population of Florida reached 1 million. 6 7 The panther population fell.
The decline in the panther population was directly linked to a concomitant
decline in its primary prey base; the white tailed deer. In 1937, the Florida
legislature passed a bill to eradicate white-tailed deer because they were thought to
harbor the Texas cattle fever tick.8 In 1947, under pressure from hunters, the
Florida Game Commission re-stocked deer populations in South Florida with
imported white tailed deer. In 1958, the Florida panther was listed under state law as
an endangered species (the panther was a charter member of endangered species
listed by the State of Florida). From 1961 to 1977, Florida Game and Fresh Water
Fish Commission released thousands of hogs in Big Cypress for people to hunt. In
1967, the federal government listed the Florida panther as endangered. It is
6 This particular history comes from PantherNet, which is partially funded out of the sale of vanity
license plates in Florida. 15% of the Florida panther plate proceeds is directed towards environmental
education within the state of Florida. PantherNet is a web site created for this specific purpose,
directed explicitly at school children.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.
8


important to note here that the Florida panthers prey base is primarily comprised of
white tailed deer and feral hogsin direct competition with human hunters.9
In 1972, personal interviews and a questionnaire were administered to South
Florida residents (Schemnitz 1972). The results from these interviews established a
population of approximately 92 panthers in South Florida, more than half of them in
Collier County, the southernmost western county in Florida, [figure 1.3]
In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. Through the Act, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (and the National Marine Fisheries Service) is
authorized to: restrict take and trafficking of endangered species, develop and carry
out recovery plans, seek land purchases or exchanges for important habitat, and
provide aid to state conservation agencies.10
In 1976 the first Florida Panther Recovery Team was funded by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.11 A group of state biologists and citizen experts were
given the task of writing a plan to save the endangered Florida panther. The
U.S.F.W.S. drew up an impressive implementation schedule, organized and funded
the project. Robert C. (Chris) Belden became the team leader. The two initial tasks
assigned to this group were to confirm the existence of the Florida panther and
9 State of Florida (1985) Panther Preservation in the Big Cypress National Preserve: A Discussion of
the Issues, Tallahassee, Florida.
10 U.S. Congress (1973) Endangered Species Act of 1973, PL 93-205;16 USC 1531, Congressional
Quarterly.
11 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1981) Original approved Florida Panther (Felis concolor cory)
Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeastern Region. Atlanta, Georgia.
9


Figure 1.3 Florida Panther Recovery Plan, Second Revision, U.S.F.W.S.,
Southeast Region, Atlanta, Georgia
10


determine its distinguishing characteristics.12 After the plan was written the group
was disbanded in 1981.
One objective of the 1981 Florida Panther Recovery Plan was to reestablish
populations where feasible. 13 Numerous tasks were assigned in the 1981 plan:
determine existing populations of Florida panther, obtain breeding stock, determine
a breeding plan, determine breeding techniques to insure survival etc... the focus of
this plan was on breeding additional panthers. In 1981,14 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service had its first official Florida Panther Recovery Plan that would later be
revised and refined in 1987. In 1982, then Florida Governor Bob Graham signed a
bill designating the Florida panther as the state animal.15
On January 17th, 1983, an older female panther, Female 3, died during an
attempt to place a radio collar around her neck. This event was a catalyst for
intervention with respect to the Florida Panther Recovery operation. Although the
death of Female 3 was accidental, the event placed a spotlight on the entire recovery
program. In particular, Chris Beldon, the biologist in charge of the capture that day,
12 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program, p. 64.
13 Florida Panther Recovery Plan, Washington, D.C: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dec 17 1981,
pp. 8-9.
14 Op Cit.
15 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program, p. 70.
11


Figure 1.4 Florida Counties (Source, South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan
prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, 1999.
Kmimmee '
Osceola
Pofr
River
Veto
Beach
Sarasota
Hardee
Dc Solo
Charlotte
Fort
. Okeechobee
Highlands
OUdcs
St. Liue
Lake
Okeechobee
Martin
Lee ,
Pak
Beach
Heiwhy
Naples
Colter
Broward
Murm-
Dadc
Miami
Monroe ;
SO Ktlimetcti
12


bore the full brunt of public outrage at having lost an elderly resident of
Fakahatchee Strand. In the field, the panther was darted with anesthesia16 and never
woke upneither did the officials in charge of implementing the Florida Panther
Recovery Plan.
At the time, panther fieldwork was being conducted by a collection of
people with very different backgrounds: a former predator control agent and tracker
named Roy McBride, Florida Game Commission project leader Chris Belden and
several biologists. The loss of Female 3 created a public relations nightmare for the
recovery project and was a catastrophic event for anyone involved with panther
capture and recovery efforts, particularly Chris Belden, the only person to have
ever really fully described the Florida panther.17 After this incident, a veterinarian
was added to any future panther captures, and a new panther technical advisory
group was bom.18
In 1983, The Florida Legislature created the Florida Panther Technical
Advisory Council, also referred to as the Panther Advisory Council. This group was
empowered by law to advise the Florida Game Commission on how to enhance the
possibilities of survival for the Florida panther. The Florida Panther Technical
16 Florida Panther Recovery: A Status Report to the Governor and Cabinet, July 7th, 1983.
17 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther- Life and Death of a Vanishing Carnivore. Island Press,
Washington D.C./ Covelo, California.
18 State of Florida (1985) Panther Preservation in the Big Cypress National Preserve: A Discussion
of the Issues, Tallahassee, Florida.
13


Advisory Council consisted of a consortium of specialists who were directed to
provide an assessment of the panthers current condition as well as a prognosis for
its future survival. This consortium, composed of geneticists, population biologists,
wildlife biologists and reproductive specialists, informed the Florida Game
Commission, that if efforts to save the panther failed to produce the stated goal of
three viable self-sustaining populations, the panther would become extinct in South
Florida in less than forty years.19
This was quite a unique situation for Florida to designate an autonomous
body of experts to advise a state agency (the Florida Game Commission). Game
Commission officials in Tallahassee no doubt feared an enormous public outcry at
the death of any Florida panther at the hands of a government entity. A similar death
of a condor chick in California caused an upheaval for the agency conducting
condor captures in 1980.20 21 22 Numerous prominent Floridians spoke out against
capturing and radio-collaring Florida panthers, including Marjory Stoneman
Douglas, author of The Everglades, River of Grass.1122 Nonetheless, radio-collared
19 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program. Sarasota: Myakka River Publishing.
20 Ibid, p. 71.
21 The Miami Herald, Treed Panther Killed in Scientific Mishap, 1/20/83.
22 Marjory Stoneman Douglas, when asked about panthers, cited documented cases where panthers
have drowned when tree branches snagged their radio collars. She also complained that dogs, darts,
and radio-collars changed panther mating behavior. Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther- Life
and Death of a Vanishing Carnivore, p. 51.
14


panthers had provided more information about this secretive animal in a few years
than had been gathered in fifty years previous.23
In 1986, two federal and two state agencies created an interagency group, the
Florida Panther Interagency Committee (FPIC) to determine how many panthers
exist in the wild and where they exist. This study was initiated to determine how
land would be allocated to the panther after learning their habitat requirements,
range, hunting patterns, reproductive capacities and preferred landscape.
In 1987, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its first major revision
to the original panther recovery plan.24 The 1987 Florida Panther Recovery plan, a
consensus agreement created by members of the FPIC, stated the goal of the
recovery plan:
The recovery objective for the Florida panther is to achieve three viable,
self-sustaining populations within the historic range of the animal. First
priority will be to establish a viable population in South Florida. A viable
population level will be determined when enough data are available to
develop a panther population model. The other two populations to be
established will require separate population goals. These population
objectives will be based upon the size of the respective areas, prey base,
competing interests for the resource base, regulatory capability and
location.25
23 Ibid, p.52.
24 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1987) Florida Panther (Felis concolor coryi) Recovery Plan.
Prepared by the Florida Panther Interagency Committee for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Atlanta Georgia. 75pp.
25 Florida Panther Recovery Plan, June 1987 (Washington, D.C.:U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
P-13.
15


This updated version of the Florida Panther Recovery Plan has stood the test
of time. It has had only minor revisions in later editions relating to captive breeding
and genetic out-crossing (e.g. 1995 26 and again in 1999 under the new titleSouth
Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan).27 Throughout all of the revisions of the
panther recovery plan, the recovery goal has remained the same achieve three
viable self-sustaining populations within the panthers historic range.
In 1990, in consultation with the Captive Breeding Specialists Group, an
outside consulting firm headed by Ulysses S. Seal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service published a notice in the Federal Register. The notice indicated the intent of
the U.S.F.W.S., to issue Endangered Species Permits for capturing Florida panthers
from the wild population in order to accelerate the establishment of a captive
population. 28
In 1991, in response to a lawsuit filed by the Fund for the Animals against
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service29 over the issue of captive breeding, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service had to cease and desist activities relating to captive breeding.30
26 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1995) Florida Panther (Felis concolor coryi) Recovery Plan-
Second Revision, Southeast Region, Atlanta, Georgia.
27 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (1999) South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan-A Species Plan,
An Ecosystem Approach, Southeast Region, May 1999, Atlanta, Georgia.
28 Federal Register, U.S.F.W.S. 2/15/90.
29 Fund for the Animals v. Turner, 1/15/91.
16


The agency was forced into a settlement agreement with Fund for the Animals that
would still allow for captive breeding, but on a much more limited scale than
previously proposed.
Also in 1991, funding for the Florida Panther Recovery effort shifted to the
State of Florida via the sale of Florida Panther license plates. Eight-five percent of
the proceeds from the sale of these plates go towards research and recovery of the
Florida panther.30 31 To date, this source of revenue has generated approximately $25
million.32
In 1993, the Florida Panther Habitat Preservation Plan, an adjunct document
to the Florida panther recovery plans, identified occupied and potential habitat,
threats to habitat, and options to maintain sufficient habitat for a self-sustaining
population (a minimum of 50 adults) of panthers in South Florida.33 * In 1995, the
second revision of the Florida Panther Recovery Plan originally published in 1987,
30 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1991) A Proposal to Establish a Captive Breeding Population of
Florida Panthers: Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment! prepared by Dennis B. Jordan,
Florida Panther Recovery Coordinator, Gainesville, Florida.
31 Ibid. p.5.
32 Florida State Department of Revenue, 2000 Report on revenue flow.
33 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1993) Florida Panther Habitat Preservation Plan-South Florida
Popu/cit/on-prepared for the Florida Panther Interagency Committee, Gainesville, Florida. The
Habitat Preservation Plan was also an outcome of the 1991 Fund for the Animals Lawsuit.
17


intricacies of decision-making and, thereby to indicate critical points in the
process... There is no perception which is not organized on the basis of
social experience..,.38
William Ascher reiterates this line of reason by arguing,
The policy sciences multi-disciplinary approach is sensitive to the broad
social matrix in which policies are formulated and applied. It thus
emphasizes context (many aspects are relevant), and how these aspects fit
together...39
When policy problems occur in the arena known as useable science,
conflict is inevitable as experts often disagree on what knowledge means for
policy. If the policy used for science is not consensual, what special claim
for hearing can it make in a world of multiple opinions and biases?40
Natural resource problems always exist in the context of culture. Since we
have conflicting values as a society, it seems reasonable that conflicts in policy
would parallel our own multiple interests. Gilbert F. White bluntly states the
problem, there is not a single program or single policy in recent United States
resource management that displays a unitary, unambiguous aim. 41
Such is the case with the Florida panther. There are multiple competing
interest groups interested in the outcome of panther recovery and how it should
proceed in the State of Florida, or even if it should proceed. Scientists, the public,
38 White, Gilbert F. (1966) Formation and Role of Public Attitudes, Environmental Quality in a
Growing Economy, ed. John Hopkins Press, for Resources for the Future.
39 Ascher, William (1986) The Evolution of the Policy Sciences: Understanding the Rise and
Avoiding the Fall, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, 365-389.
40 Clark, W.C., G. Majone (1985) The Critical Appraisal of Scientific Inquiries with Policy
Implications, Science. Technology and Human Values. Vol. 10, Issue 3, pp.6-19.
41 Op. Cit., p. 248.
20


environmentalists, legislators and agency personnel all have differing opinions on
how the panther should be managed.
Four agencies (the actors) have been charged with jointly constructing a
recovery plan for the Florida panther, they are: the U.S. National Park Service, the
Florida Department of Natural Resources, now renamed the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection, the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission and
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is statutorily charged with oversight of any
recovery effort involving an endangered species.
However, other important stakeholders are notably absent from the
discussion. They are: The South Florida Water Management District, the
Miccosukee and Seminole Indian tribes (large landholders in South Florida), the
Ford Motor Company (a large landholder of a automobile test facility in Southwest
Florida known to have panthers within its fenced confines), cattle ranchers (large
landholders in Southwest Florida), citrus growers, environmental non-profits, and
vegetable growers among others.
Within the agencies themselves and without, there is no general consensus of
opinion on how to proceed with recovery efforts directed at the Florida panther.
Veterinarians want genetic manipulation of the animal, indicating their biases for
hybridization alternatives. They openly advocate either in-breeding the animal with
outside gene stock, or removal of the animals from the wild altogether. They argue
21


that to save the Florida panther it may be necessary to take them from the wild and
raise them in panther compounds where reproduction would be carried out with the
help of artificial insemination while the animals themselves are carefully controlled.
Wildlife biologists want more space for the animal, they argue that the
Florida panther, which is a large roving predator, needs x number of acres in order
to expand into new territory and thus survive. They propose involvement by private
interests, and welcome private landowners to decision-making processes, whether
they are farmers, ranchers, the citrus industry or the Ford Motor Company.
Environmentalists argue that modes of artificial manipulation diminish the
wild Florida panther. By capturing and collaring animals, humans alter normal
panther behavior patterns. By in-breeding and outcrossing the cats with imported
cougars, genotypically the Florida panther is subsumed to the Texas cougar or other
import. By removing the panther from the wild altogether, researchers are creating a
zoo specimen that little resembles the wild Florida panther.
National Park representatives are only interested in protecting the panther
within its boundaries. Florida Fish and Game Commission representatives are
interested in preserving the panther for the purpose of maintaining a viable white-
tailed deer population preferred by hunters. The Florida Department of
Environmental Protection is interested in the symbolic nature of the panther,
inextricably linked to the image of Florida.
22


There is no mapping procedure or model that accurately captures the
intricacies, interactions or intersections of these interests and decision-making
options, as Gilbert White would advocate. There is no overt recognition by agencies
empowered with Florida panther recovery efforts, that problem definition is
heavily influenced by perspectives, values, and goals" as Tim Clark as indicated.
And there is no acknowledgement that a problem within the realm of useable
science causes conflict when experts disagree on what knowledge means for
policy as William Ascher has articulated. Instead there are competing agencies in
orbit around their constituencies, overlain by the problem of panther recovery.
The policy problem with respect to the Florida panther recovery effort is
really fivefold: 1. A lack of focus on high quality habitat to extend the range of the
Florida panther whether or not that habitat exists on private or public lands, 2. Lack
of coordination/cooperation between all state agencies working on panther recovery
and between state and federal agencies, 3. Lack of leadership and focused effort for
Florida panther recovery efforts, 4. Failure to use science well, and 5.Questionable
breeding techniques postulated for the Florida panther in order to meet stated goals
of recovery.
23


CHAPTER 2
POLICY GOALS AND GOAL CLARIFICATION
There are some animals on earth that have not benefited from the well-intended,
hands-on efforts of people. Florida panthers have gained little by human efforts
to manage individuals and manipulate population genetics. The panthers
problem, like that of the grizzly bears, cheetahs, California condors, and black-
footedferrets, is space.
David S. Maehr Former Biologist- Florida Panther Recovery Team
According to Harold Lasswell in A Preview of Policy Sciences (Lasswell,
1971: 40) the goal clarifying task is indicated by this question, What ought I to
prefer? What future states are to be realized as far as possible in the social process?
Where do we want to go? What ought to be considered as part of a recovery effort
for the endangered Florida panther? What might such a process look like and who
would be invited to participate?
The etiology of the Florida panther recovery effort stems from a series of
reports published by the U.S.F.W.S. that specify a recovery plan as well as various
habitat restoration plans for the Florida panther in accordance with the statutory
requirements of the Endangered Species Act. However, these reports do not
adequately address a fundamental problem with panther recovery finding
appropriate space for the Florida panther. The Endangered Species Act specifically
calls for recovery of a species within its historic range [a stated recovery goal for the
24


Florida panther] while exercising due diligence with respect to critical habitat.
[not stated as a goal in the Florida panther recovery effort].
Therefore tension exists between the fact that the State of Florida wishes to
recover the endangered Florida panther yet they have not specifically articulated
how critical lands will be acquired for the continued survival of the Florida
panther. The published policy goal with respect to the Florida Panther as outlined in
the Florida Panther Recovery Plan revised and updated in 1987,1985 and 1999 by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the following objective: to achieve three
viable self-sustaining populations within the panthers historic range. The how as to
how this will occur is much in debate. The plan clearly states that goals and
objectives will be attained and funds expended contingent upon appropriations,
priorities and other constraints.42 The plan does not reconcile the issue of habitat
requirements for the panther, just that somehow, these three populations of panther
will be established.
There has been much discussion of whether or not the Florida panther has
already reached the point of no return with respect to reco very in the wild.43
Depending on who you talk to, either there are not enough panthers within a viable
gene pool to insure survival, or reproductive pathologies of extant panthers are so
42 Op. Cit. p. 2.
43 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1991) A Proposal to Establish a Captive Breeding Population of
Florida Panthers: Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment! prepared by Dennis B. Jordan,
Florida Panther Recovery Coordinator, Gainesville, Florida.
25


deleterious that reproductive efforts in the wild would prove futile. Therefore, in
recent years efforts have turned to genetic manipulation and captive breeding as
viable options for panther recovery within the natural resource government actor
community.44 The issue of gaining needed habitat for the panther is not addressed
probably due to the logistic and political difficulty of acquiring land in the one of
the fastest growing states in the country.
The policy goal from a government agency perspective is to re-create
populations of panthers within a dwindling habitat range comprised of largely
poorer quality state and federal lands.45 This does not address the difficulties of
managing preferred panther habitat that happens to occur on primarily private lands
as documented by research biologists involved with the Florida interagency panther
recovery team46 How do we force panthers to occupy lands that are not preferred
but which are protected by state and federal law?
I believe that the common interest goal in this case is to protect the Florida
panther within its historic range as a wild species, which is clearly the intent of the
Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act does not address genetic
manipulations of species as a primary goal to be achieved, rather the Act addresses
44 Op Cit. pp.1295-1297.
45 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1993) Florida Panther Habitat Preservation Plan-South Florida
Population-prepared for the Florida Panther Interagency Committee. Gainesville, Florida.
46 Maehr, David S., Jayde C. Roof, Darrell E. Land (1992) Home Range Characteristics of a Panther
in South Central Florida, Florida Field Naturalist. Nov 1 20:4, pp. 97-104.
26


recovery of species in the wild. Some genetic manipulation to this end would no
doubt be advisable, however, complete removal of an extant species is surely not
what the authors of the ESA had in mind. The Florida panther is what Floridians and
others have identified as symbolic of a wild, remnant Florida that is fast
disappearing. When Floridians fund Florida panther recovery efforts through their
tax dollars, presumably, a wild population of panther is what they seek to protect.47
Protecting the Florida panther, a wide-ranging carnivore, will ultimately
protect many other endangered species in the path of development.48 This goal is
consistent with a national interest in protecting endangered species within a growing
list of endangered places. If the majority of Floridians agree that saving the Florida
panther is a noteworthy goal and efforts to do so by public land managers have
generally failed, then perhaps it is time to consider an all inclusive stakeholder
group to consider the matter. By including any and all Floridians who have an
interest in the survival of the Florida panther, either by virtue of owning land in
proximity to panthers, or by self-selectionan all inclusive group might just
generate the means by which we achieve the desired ends: survival of this species.
47 Duda, M.D., and K.C. Young, 1995. Public Opinion on the Fate of the Florida Panther, Florida
Environmental and Urban Issues. Summer 1995,22:4.
48 Maehr, D.S. ed. (to be published in October 2001) As yet unpublished manuscript on Carnivores.
Chapter 15- D.S. Maehr, T.S. Hoctor, and L.D. Harris, The Florida Panther is a Flagship for
Regional Ecological Restoration, Chapter 16- Harris, L.D., L.C. Duever, R.P. Meegan, T.S. Hoctor,
J.L. Schortemeyer, and D.S. Maehr, The Biotic Province as the Minimum Critical Unit for
Biodiversity Conservation. Island Press: Covelo, California.
27


Robert Reich, a political scientist, would seem to support the idea of a
multiple stakeholder group when he addresses the issue of policy-making in a
pluralistic democracy by critiquing the standard approach, intermediating among
interest groups versus maximizing net benefits. He provides a third option,
For the typical public manager who heads a bureaucracy charged with
implementing the law, public debate is not something to be invited....
American politics [is] pluralistic, composed of shifting and overlapping
groups whose leaders bargain with one another; the vast majority of
Americans are members of one or more of these groups, even if they
remained mostly uninvolved. These features help to explain why democracy
has survived so well in the United States, by contrast to many other nations;
these features are thus desirable prerequisites for democracy.49
Broad grants of administrative discretion to the experts seemed
dangerously inconsistent with these newly discovered democratic virtues.50
Both interest group mediation and net benefit maximization share a view of
democracy in which relevant communications flow in one direction: from
individuals preferences to public officials, whose job it is to accommodate and
aggregate them.51 This view of the place of public management in a democracy
suffers from two related difficulties. First, it is inaccurate. Individual preferences do
not arise outside and apart from their social context, but are influenced by both the
process and the substance of policy making. Communications move in both
49 Reich, R. ed., (1988) The Power of Public Ideas, Chapter 6- Policy Making in a Democracy. Ballinger
Publishing Company: Cambridge, Massachusetts.
50 Ibid, p.125.
51 Ibid, p 127.
28


directions, from citizen to policy maker and from policy maker to citizen, and then
horizontally among citizens.52
Reich discusses the benefits of open civic engagement in a process he calls
civic discovery. That process has the following components: the problem and its
solutions may be redefined, voluntary action may be generated, preferences may be
legitimized, individual preferences may be influenced by considerations of what is
good for society, and deeper conflicts may be discovered. Reich does not suggest
that the public manager completely abandon interest group inter-mediation or net
benefit maximization, however he does suggest that public managers must be
willing to venture occasionally into the third sphere, in which public deliberation
takes prominence.53
Robert K.Merton tries to capture what is at the heart of bureaucratic
behavior in his classic treatise, Bureaucratic Structure and Personality (1940) where
Merton attempts to articulate the formal social structure from whence the bureaucrat
derives his/her power,
Formality is manifested by means of a more or less complicated social
ritual which symbolizes and supports the pecking order of the various
offices. Such formality which is integrated with the distributions of
authority within the system, serves to minimize friction by largely restricting
52 Ibid, p.130.
53 Reich, R. ed., (1988) The Power of Public Ideas, Chapter 6- Policy Making in a Democracy.
Ballinger Publishing Company: Cambridge, Massachusetts.
29


(official) contact to modes which are previously defined by the rules of the
organization.54
Merton, a sociologist, is helpful in explaining why bureaucratic officialdom is
loathe to deal with the public in a meaningful dialogue,
Bureaucracy is administration which almost completely avoids public
discussion of its techniques, although there may occur public discussion
of its policies. This bureacratic secrecy is held to be necessary in order to
keep valuable information from economic competitors or from foreign
and potentially hostile political groups.55
In the context of this case, it is possible to view panther constituents who are not in
agreement with official agencies in charge of panther recovery as potentially
hostile political groups.
If it is indeed true that the Florida panther needs a certain kind of habitat
(upland hardwood hammocks) which are found primarily on privately owned
agricultural lands56 and ordinary land owners are not participating in a panther
dialogue,57 then how do we establish an inclusive process whereby the Florida
panther can enjoy open access to these lands? How can we get public land
managers and relevant actors to engage each other in constructive ways that lead to
effective problem solving within the context of our legal framework?
54 Merton, Robert K. (1940) Bureaucratic Structure and Personality, Social Forces 18: pp. 560-568.
55 Ibid, p. 561.
56 Maehr, D.S. (1995) Landscape Features and Panthers in Florida, Conservation Biology 9:5,
pp.1008-1019.
57 Maehr, D.S (1990) The Florida Panther and Private Lands, Conservation Biology. 4:2,
pp. 167-170.
30


CHAPTER 3
TRENDS: ANALYSIS OF THE PROBLEMFIVE
TRENDS LEADING AWAY FROM FLORIDA
PANTHER RECOVERY
In general there are five (5) significant reasons why panther recovery is not
proceeding at a faster pace. First, there is a fundamental lack of focus on high
quality habitat that would be needed to extend the range of the Florida panther. It
j
should be irrelevant whether or not that habitat exists on private or public lands.
There is simply not enough good public land on high ground in South Florida to
benefit the Florida panther.
Second, there is a real lack of coordination/cooperation between the state
and federal agencies charged with panther recovery. Agencies for a time worked
together in the past to pool personnel, resources, and data.58 Since about the early
90s this cooperative effort has been pretty much abandoned in favor of each agency
going it alone. This does nothing to advance the likelihood of the panthers survival.
Agencies dont share data willingly. They do not interact in a problem-solving
manner, and they are very competitive regarding who gets to publish what on the
Florida panther.
58 FPIC was an attempt at interagency cooperation once the Florida Panther Technical Advisory
Council was formed to advise the Florida Game Commission.
31


Third, there is a distinct lack of leadership within the panther recovery
community. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead agency with respect to
endangered species recovery efforts. Therefore it is reasonable to suggest that they
provide leadership in the form of an individual or group with technical expertise on
carnivore recovery efforts that other recovery personnel will accept and work with.
This is not the case at the present time. There is no focused effort for Florida
panther recovery efforts.
Fourth, there have been numerous technical committees comprised of
academic researchers and state/federal biologists who have advised the Florida
Game Commission of their findings with respect to the panthers prospects for
survival and options that might enhance survival. The Committees are formed, the
information is collected, and nothing is done to implement the findings. Federal and
State authorities do not act on suggestions made by these groups, even though the
Governor and the Legislature have commissioned the groups themselves. Instead,
new committees are formed, more data is collected, and more meetings are held, ad
infinitum. The science is offeredbut there is reluctance on the part of decision-
makers to use the science as demonstrated by the lack of agency impetus to regulate
deer hunting. The white tailed deer being the panthers primary prey base.
Lastly, there has been a great deal of uncertainty regarding questionable
breeding techniques postulated for use on the Florida panther. In order to meet
stated goals of recovery, captive breeding has been suggested as has out-crossing
32


the Florida panther with Texas pumas. This area of research has not only done
nothing to help the Florida panther, but probably has hurt the panther in that kittens
were taken from the wild in order to breed them in captivity in order to increase the
supply of panthers. Shortly after the removal of Florida panthers from the wilda
lawsuit initiated by the Fund for the Animals stopped the process dead in its tracks.
These panthers would have been inserted into new territories around the State of
Florida. The kittens, the ones who have survived to adulthood, languish in captive
breeding facilities or zoos, unable to provide progeny to the project. The following
narrative is a more thorough discussion of trends leading away from panther
recovery.
Trend: Lack of High Quality Habitat for the Florida Panther
Within the context of panther recovery, there has been precious little
attention paid to viable panther habitat on private lands nor has there been any real
consideration of purchasing habitat in southwest Florida due to real or perceived
political obstacles to land acquisition.59 Aggressive acquisition of quality habitat for
the Florida panther either by fee simple purchase or private/public partnership
agreements is not happening.
Currently there appears to be no action plan for recovery of the Florida
panther. There is a recovery plan and a list of objectives within that plan, but the
59 Oral Interview with Craig Evans-Executive Director of the Florida Stewardship Foundation.
33


projects are perennially listed as on going. It is difficult to determine what progress,
if any is actually occurring on the ground. Telemetry data continues to be collected
and analyzed, but publication of the data lags, as does interpretation of that data
with respect to the whereabouts of the Florida panther and what that means. Efforts
to manage habitat, acquire habitat, or manage prey species vital to the panthers
continued existence also appear to be stymied.60
There is a need in natural resource management arenas to protect essential
habitat that lies outside the reach of the public land manager. To protect endangered
and threatened species it is no longer enough to look at animals as static beings
capable of understanding political and jurisdictional boundaries. Recovery efforts
need to focus on the obvious, good habitat, whether it is on public or private lands.
Private agricultural and forest lands cover more than 50% of the surface area of the
United States.61
Yet, private lands are excluded from government defined panther habitat.
Most of the preferred panther habitat occurs in hardwood hammocks and upland
piney woods north of federal/state owned lands, e.g. the Everglades National Park,
60 Oral Interview with Darrell E. Land-Wildlife Biologist with the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish
Commission.
61 Florida Fish and Game Commission and the American Farmland Trust (1995) Incentive-based
Programs and Techniques to Protect Natural Resources and Florida Panther Habitat on Private
Lands. Washington, D.C.
34


Big Cypress National Preserve and the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge.62
Numerous obstacles factor into why private lands are not considered for Florida
panther habitat. There is the reality of the political/economic difficulty of acquiring
private lands in a fast developing state. Federal/State laws give preference to
managing endangered species on public lands by public land managers. Property
Tax and Income Tax structures do not reward/encourage private landowners to
protect endangered species. The Inheritance Tax or death tax encourages the
break-up of large parcels of land suitable for panther habitat.
Additionally, perceived loss of control/loss of budget for species recovery
efforts not occurring in the context of natural resource government actors could be a
factor in not pursuing public/private partnerships.63 Natural resource agencies
charged with the recovery of the Florida panther fail to take into account that
citizens owning large parcels of land of preferred panther habitat are not included in
any meaningful way in panther recovery efforts.64 Non-governmental actors have
focused on this aspect of species recovery. Funding mechanisms for preserving
preferred panther habitat on private lands have not been adequately explored.
62 Maehr, D.S.(1995) Landscape Features and Panthers in Florida, Conservation Biology 9:5,
pp.1008-1019.
63 Maehr, D.S (1990) The Florida Panther and Private Lands, Conservation Biology. 4:2, pp.167-
170.
64 Tucker, D.W. (2000) Oral Interviews with J. McDaniel, R. Hall, Private landowners.
35


Private LandownersThe Key to Survival
/ don 7 think the government has the right to take your ranch away, or
prevent you from doing what you want to with it. But there ought to be real
incentives to keep it natural.
Jeff McDaniel whose family has ranched in Hendry County since 1936 65
Every hour it is said, almost 20 acres of land are cleared in Florida. Every
day, 450 acres. Every year, 164,000 acres (Florida Almanac, 1998: 128).
Conservationists assert that natural Florida is disappearing at twice the rate of the
Brazilian rain forest. To date, people have converted about half of Florida into
cities, towns, and agricultural land. The lands directly south of Lake Okeechobee
are large tracts planted in sugar cane. These lands thrive by virtue of the fact that
they are covered in primordial muck that used to be the northern reaches of the
Everglades ecosystem. When the muck is gone, it is retreating at the rate of several
inches per year, these lands will probably be converted into new sub-divisions, e.g.
sugarcane acres.66 Land ownership in this area, south of Clewiston, in Hendry
County, is dominated by Big Sugar. One corporation alone,67 comprised of several
families, owns more than 130,000 acres. The Hilliard Brothers own about 20,000
acres and U.S. Sugar owns 30,000 acres for a grand total of 180,000 acres. By
comparison, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County is
65 Charles Fergus (1996) Swamp Screamer, p. 174.
66 Alec Wilkinson, Big Sugar-Seasons in the Cane Fields of Florida, 1989.
67 The Alico Corporationa family subsidiary.
36


30.000 acres. The average home range of a male Florida panther is approximately
130.000 acres, for a female it is about 50,000 acres.68
Southwest of the cane lie the cattle ranches. Collier County has the states
largest private land owner, a cattle ranch, an area of approximately 280,000 acres
owned by the Lykes family. These lands were open range up until very recently
the late 1940s.69 Biologists have long known that the Lykes land contain Florida
panthers,70 but the Lykes will not allow any state officials on the land to do a
biological survey. The lands are prime upland hardwood habitat perfect for
panthers. In Immokalee and surrounding counties, potentially prime panther habitat,
pine woods, cypress swamps, and open range are slated for citriculture
development.71 State permits have already been issued to allow for citrus growers
to move further south away from damaging frosts.
Probably the best habitat for Florida panthers exists in the area around the
town of La Belle. Four counties: Hendry, DeSoto, Charlotte and Glades which are
dotted with private cattle ranches could be vital to the panthers expansion out of
68 Maehr, David S., Jayde C. Roof, Darrell E. Land (1992) Home Range Characteristics of a Panther
in South Central Florida, Florida Field Naturalist. Nov 1 20:4, pp. 97-104.
69 Oral Interview with Lykes General Manager-Ross Edwards.
70 Via telemetry data. Maehr, D.S.(1999) Large Carnivores in an Island Paradise? Wild Earth.
Winter 1999/2000, 9:4, pp. 56-61.
71 Pearlstine, L.G., Brandt, L.A., W.M. Kitchens (1995) Impacts of Citrus Development on Habitats
of Southwest Florida, Conservation Biology 9:5, pp. 1020-1032.
37


South Florida if they could only get there. The Caloosahatchee River, remains a
formidable obstacle to panther migration north. The current Caloosahatchee River
has been dredged just as the Kissimmee River has been dredged. It is deep and
dangerous to cross. If panthers do manage to cross the Caloosahatchee, they face an
uncertain situation on privately owned cattle ranches to the north.
The problem is summed up by Sonny Bass a biologist at Everglades
National Park,
The problem for the panther and for all other wildlife in Florida, is the loss
of habitat. Florida is caught up in uncontrolled growth. We havent reached
a crisis level yet, but we are getting close. Its time to say enough is enough
and stop the habitat loss. But agencies like to postpone tough decisions;
theyd rather use quick-fix techniques instead of long-term planning. And
captive breeding, while it looks like a long-term effort, is really just another
quick fix.72
David Maehr, former biologist for the Florida Fish and Game Commission concurs,
This population could increase if it had somewhere to expand into. We need to
acquire more land and manage it for deer to increase the prey basethats a much
better way to improve things for panthers than captive breeding. 73
Panthers inhabit the considerable public land in South Florida (much in low,
wet, and less productive areas relatively devoid of prey than the drier, more fertile
private lands to the north), including Big Cypress National Preserve, Fakahatchee
72 Charles Fergus (1996) Swamp Screamer, p. 106.
73 Maehr, D.S. ed. (to be published in October 2001) As yet unpublished manuscript on Carnivores.
Chapter 15- D.S. Maehr, T.S. Hoctor, and L.D. Harris, The Florida Panther is a Flagship for
Regional Ecological Restoration.
38


Strand State Preserve74 and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. There
may be a handful of aging panthers in Everglades National Park. They range
through the 52,000 acres of the Big Cypress Indian Reservation and the 267,000
acres of the adjoining Miccosukee Indian Reservation. They slip through the
suburbs of Naples and Fort Myers, fast growing cities in Southwest Florida. From
the west and they go north into Hendry, Glades, Charlotte, and De Soto counties.75 76
[figure 3.1]
A panther is one thing to a biologist, and another thing to a bureaucrat, one
thing to a deer hunter, another to an animal-rights activist. A rancher, suburbanite,
or CEO also sees different versions of the same creature, especially one suspected of
skulking on land scheduled to become an orange grove or waste incinerator site or
office complex. To the cattle rancher, vegetable farmer, citrus grower, or the Ford
Motor Company, the panther might even be perceived as a deductible expense or a
tax shelter. When asked, numerous farmers and ranchers, all large landowners of
preferred panther habitat, were not adverse to the idea of sharing their lands with the
state animal, especially if there was a state remuneration involved.76 77
74 A strand is a long linear forest occupying a trough-like depression where over the centuries, soil
has collected.
75 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther- Life and Death of a Vanishing Carnivore. Island Press,
Washington D.C./ Covelo, California.
76 Tucker, D.W. (2000) Oral Interviews with J. McDaniel, R. Hall, Private landowners.
39


Figure 3.1 Florida Panther Habitat Preservation Areas (Source, South Florida
Multi-Species Recovery Plan prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Southeast Region, 1999.
Figure 3. Florida panther Habitat preservation areas.
Additionally, several pilot projects are already underway under the auspices
of the Florida Stewardship Foundation, involving hundreds of thousands of acres of
ranchland, prime panther habitat.77 78 These fee simple title holders will be engaging in
the first ever project using mitigation banking and a host of other tax relief strategies
77 Duda, M.D., and K.C. Young, 1995. Public Opinion on the Fate of the Florida Panther, Florida
Environmental and Urban Issues, Summer 1995,22:4.
78 Florida Stewardship Foundation (1998) Private Lands-Partners in Conserving Americas
Resources. American Farmland Trust. Washington, D.C.
40


to allow them to do business as usual while setting aside key habitat for the Florida
panther. (Florida Stewardship Society, Feb 2000)
The Habitat Preservation Plan
Because of a lawsuit initiated by The Fund for Animals, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service had to come up with a habitat preservation plan; an elaborate
document with numerous maps showing where panthers live today and where they
might live in the future. According to the Funds Washington D.C. representative,
Donald Schubert, they really blew it, referring to the habitat plan. The service
should have talked to the individual landowners that the plan would affect. There
were only about a dozen and a half people they would have needed to contact.
Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft of its plan to the news media
and the public. The plan received a chilly reception from the very people who were
in the best positions to provide private land for the panther to use. Since the plan
first came out, Schubert states it has gone through seven or eight drafts. Its been
watered down until theres nothing concrete left in it. When the final version comes
79
outwe may sue again.
Landowners protested that the government meant to buy up all of South
Florida for the panther. The Fish and Wildlife Service actually proposed buying
only the most critical lands, and then only if the owners were willing to sell. They 79
79 Charles Fergus (1996) Swamp Screamer, p. 155.
41


hoped to sign leases with other landowners, who would receive money in return for
not converting their sloughs, forests, and cattle ranges into citrus and housing
developments. County commissions went on record as opposing the habitat
preservation plan. The panther would become the spotted owl of the Southeast, all
profitable development would cease, thousands of acres would be withdrawn from
the local tax base, and South Floridas economy would topple.80
Public agencies involved in the Panther Habitat Preservation Plan could not
admit that perhaps a tactical error had been made in the preparation of this planning
document. At a public hearing at the Lee County courthouse in Fort Myers, Fla. on
February 4th, 1994,81 landowners in nine counties deemed to be critical to panther
recovery heard for the first time the contents of the Florida Panther Habitat
Preservation Plan. Officials who represent the Florida Panther Interagency
Committee laid out the details of the plan. Many landowners asked why they were
not consulted in developing a document that could have such a profound impact on
them. If nothing else, landowners would have had some stake in the process if they
had been consulted earlier.
A local corporate attorney in the audience summed up the audiences
anxiety. If a landowner did not voluntarily participate in the plan, the attorney
80 Ibid.
81 Summary of Hearing, Public Hearing. Florida Panther Interagency Committee, February 4th, 1994.-
Lee County Courthouse, Ft. Myers, Florida.
42


suggested, then the regulatory agencies would make the permitting of agricultural
and residential developments as costly and time consuming as possible in order to
extract from the landowner what volunteerism could not.82 This was not exactly the
response that engenders trust and cooperation between government agencies and the
public. Landowners must want to help in the recovery of the Florida panther.
Coercion will not generate authentic support.
Many of the landowners would like to help, but few can afford to. In order to
pay their taxes and maintain their quality of life, property owners must make their
land produce income. If it is truly agreed that forests on private land must be part of
the future panther landscape, then their owners deserve to be compensated for
sacrificing the income potential of their land. Given the pattern of land ownership in
South Florida, it is clear that the private sector holds the keys to panther recovery.
They have all the good land.
Therefore, public land managers should be seeking ways to work with
private landowners in a way that engages them and remunerates them for assisting
in the recovery of the Florida panther. To demonstrate the importance of the private
sector, currently there may be less than six panthers surviving on federal holdings
within Everglades NP and Big Cypress National Preserve.83
82 Ibid.
83 Oral Interview with Sonny Bass-Biologist, Everglades National Park.
43


Ken Alvarez, formerly of the Florida Department of Natural Resources,
found that his own agency was reluctant to manage its lands to help the panther.
According to Alvarez, the Florida Park Service, like its federal counterpart, has
vested the original landscape with near-mystical aura. Alvarez cites the example
of a Park Service official that once told him that it was not logical for the agency to
take major steps toward saving the panther, because it would be counter to the
agencys own interest to risk having the program fail. 84 85 Agency fear and
trepidation should not be a factor in considering the fate of any endangered species
yet it surely is a stumbling block in the road to recovery for the Florida panther.
Trend: No Holistic Approach to Problem Solving: Lack
of Cooperation. Coordination and Public Participation
within Agencies
Land management agencies do not operate in a vacuum. The bureaucratic
timidity can be accountedfor in part by the aversive conditioning of a volatile
public arena. The paranoia, the avoidance of a direct and vigorous attack on ills
that are clearly the agencies to treat, the self-delusions and rationalizations that
are sometimes employed to prevent them from even defining the problemowe
much to the fear of setting off a grand commotion.
Ken AlvarezBiologistFormer Member of the
Florida Panther Advisory Council
There is a wealth of personalities in this thing, which doesnt help in some ways.
David S. MaehrFormer Wildlife Biologist
Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission 84 85
84 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program. Sarasota: Myakka River Publishing.
85 Oral Interview with Dave Maehr via telephone, April 4*, 2001.
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In the eyes of many, the Fish and Wildlife Service is not much more than an
organizational nuisance.
Jeanne Nienaber Clarke and Daniel McCool,
Staking Out the Terrain: Power Differentials among Natural
Resource Management Agencies, 1985
There are two kinds of logic: real logic and Game Commission logic.
Anonymous Game Commission biologist, 1986.
Ken Alvarez, Twilight of the Panther
The Florida panther recovery effort consistently has received overwhelming
support from Florida residents and lawmakers alike.86 87 88 89 Funds have been directed to
state and federal natural resource agencies in a coordinated interagency attempt to
recover the species. To date though, there has been little coordination or unified
effort on behalf of the various state and federal agencies charged with the recovery
of the Florida panther. Research efforts are largely conducted by individual
researchers within their respective agencies with minimal levels of cooperation and
sharing of data. 87 88 89
Currently there are several state research efforts that provide telemetry data
on the movements of individual panthers while simultaneously providing Geo-
86 Duda, M.D., and K.C. Young, 1995. Public Opinion on the Fate of the Florida Panther, Florida
Environmental and Urban Issues. Summer 1995,22:4.
87 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program. Sarasota: Myakka River Publishing.
88 Tucker, D.W. (2001) Oral Interview with Ken Alvarez-Biologist-Florida Department of
Environmental Protection.
89 Tucker, D.W. (2001) Oral Interview with David S. Maehr-Assistant Professor-Department of
Forestry- University of Kentucky, former Biologist for 9 years at the Florida Fish and Game
Commission.
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synchronous Imaging System (GIS) satellite data to plot vegetation maps.90 91 92 The
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has at least two research recovery plans underway
which concern the Florida panther.91 92 One is directed at recovery of the Florida
panther specifically while the other takes a more regional approach to recovering
carnivores.93
Splintering of effort occurs as in the case of the National Park Service and
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service creating their own capture crews. The program
becomes fragmented. There are now fights over publication rights.94 One biologist
is tracking cats in Everglades National Park 95 while other biologists track cats in
Big Cypress Swamp and elsewhere.96 They do not share data.
This is odd given the fact the Florida panther recovery effort is one of the
earliest carnivore reintroduction/recovery efforts nationwide.97 The fact that the
90 Ibid.
91 Ibid.
92 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (1999) South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan-A Species Plan,
An Ecosystem Approach, Southeast Region, May 1999, Atlanta, Georgia.
93 Ibid.
94 NPS letter to Dave Maehr suggesting he refrain from publishing an article using NPS data.
95 Sonny Bass-Biologist with the National Park Service.
96 Darrell E Land-Wildlife Biologist with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.
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Florida panther resides, at least partly, within the Everglades ecosystem, a world
heritage site that has in recent years gained international and national prestige,
would seem to warrant a more studied approach.97 98
The Florida panther recovery effort lacks a coordinated holistic approach to
resource and natural systems management. All aspects of a property or habitat site
should be considered for species preservation including geology, hydrology, social
and cultural aspects. Yet the idea of including social and cultural knowledge in
combination with geologic and hydrologic knowledge is somehow alien to most
public land managers. They are simply not trained to think in interdisciplinary ways.
Most public land managers come from traditional schools of thought
whereby natural science becomes the means to solve all problems. Fish and Wildlife
curricula in most land grant colleges prepare individuals for solitary careers utilizing
science to solve problems. Rarely, are problems posed as people or policy issues,
and rarely are citizens allowed to participate in decision-making.
97 Op. Cit. The 1987 Florida Panther Recovery Plan is the completed revision of the Florida Panther
Recovery Plan which was originally approved on December 17, 1981. It has been approved by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It does not necessarily represent official positions or approvals of
cooperating agencies. It does not necessarily represent the views of all individuals involved in the
plan formation. The plan has been prepared by the Florida Panther Interagency Committee to
delineate reasonable actions believed required to place the assigned species in the best possible
position. This plan is subject to modification as dictated by new findings, changes in species status
and completion of tasks described in the plan. Goals and objectives will be attained andfunds
expended contingent upon appropriations, priorities and other constraints. [emphasis added]
98 Ripple, Jeff (1996) Southwest Floridas wetland wilderness: Big Cypress Swamp and the Ten
Thousand Islands, Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
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It is not unrealistic to think that people who choose careers in natural
resource management may have done so to avoid interactions with people to the
extent that it is possible. After all, working with nature may seem on the surface,
less problematic than dealing with people who have very divergent interests and
means of expression.
Agency Apartheid
Different agencies look independently at different aspects of a landscape.
The South Florida Water Management District looks at hydrologic features of the
landscape with respect to flood management. The Florida Fish and Game
Commission looks at species of interest to hunters. The National Park Service
primarily looks at recreational needs and the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection looks at protecting sensitive state lands and sensitive state symbols.
No agency looks at the social, economic or cultural needs of Floridians with
respect to the Florida panther. For example, Seminole and Miccosukee Indians have
a rich tradition involving the secretive Florida panther,99 they, like other private
land owners, were not consulted with respect to the Florida Panther Recovery plan,
and they should be. Seminole and Miccosukee tribes are large landholders in South
Florida, occupying thousands of acres within which the Florida panther no doubt
99 http://www.seminoletribe.com/culture/legends.html~The Creator did have certain favorite animals.
He liked the Panther, Coo-wah-chobee crawls on four legs, close to the ground. The Panther would
sit beside the Creator and He would pet the Panther, over and over, across its long, soft, furry back.
48


resides. One of the most celebrated cases in Florida regarding the killing of a
panther occurred on Seminole property.100
Ken Alvarez in Twilight of the Panther explains that the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service is considered the lead agency in the effort to save the panther.
However the service holds little power over the bureaucracies it is supposed to be
leading. In regard to such critical issues as captive breeding, hunting, habitat
preservation, and educating the public, the Fish and Wildlife Service must coax,
suggest, never demand. The endangered species branch of the Fish and Wildlife
Service, Alvarez writes, is purely an administrative organ that has no zealous
band of constituents and thus no political base. Elsewhere in his book Alvarez is
more succinct, describing the service as a great federal wimp and a political
weakling that can be elbowed aside at any time. 101
There is a tribal mentality surrounding the interagency task force charged
with saving the Florida panther from extinction. That mentality is exclusive,
autocratic, and non-communicative with respect to public involvement in panther
recovery efforts. There is no such thing as a genuine public participatory process
whereby the public might offer assistance to agencies, who themselves lack trust in
100 See Billie v. United States in McMullen, J.P. (1984) Cry of the panther: quest of a species.
Sarasota: Pineapple Press.
101 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program, p. 112.
49


each other. So how then can the assets of the private sector be engaged to assist the
Florida panther when agencies cant and wont assist each other?
What is remarkable about the Florida panther recovery program is the
uniformity of response with respect to queries concerning how persons within the
project work together, get along, listen to each others ideas, share data, and in
general, cooperate across jurisdictional boundaries. When looking at any problem,
whether it is an endangered species recovery effort, or another intractable problem,
it never seems to occur to policy makers to look at group dynamicsor at what
Harold Lasswell might regard as behaviorism.102 Yet time and again, projects both
within a natural resource management context and elsewhere succumb to petty and
unscientific scenarios played out in lieu of policy.103
Ken Alvarez summarizes the problems associated with agency malaise,
In the minutes of the Technical Subcommittee meetings, the actors come
and go; decisions are reversed, often without explanation; no one was in
charge; the different agencies and factions pursue their separate objectives;
motives are sometimes discernible and sometimes not; the recovery program
is a case of strategic aversion and operational chaos, organized only to the
extent that it can avoid any action deemed undesirable by its component
factions, as they project an image of industry and purpose while consuming
a perennial flow of revenue. 104
102 Lasswell, Harold (1971) A Pre-View of Policy Sciences, Chapter 3.
103 Oral interviews with Biologists Darrel Land, Ken Alvarez, Sonny Bass, John Lucas and Dave
Maehr.
104 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program, p. 174.
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State and Federal biologists working on panther recovery plans and projects
all complain of the same things: conflicting personalities among agency personnel
getting in the way of work to be done; morale problems that occur when research
results are ignored or circumvented; lack of focus; lack of trust among governmental
actors doing the same work; and lack of support from political appointees in
Tallahassee [Florida State Capitol] and Atlanta [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Southeast
Region Headquarters].105
In addition, researchers complain that there is no sharing of data, outside of
using State Sunshine Laws and there is no overarching coordinator for panther
recovery efforts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 1976, organized the very
first panther recovery effort. Fish and Wildlife staff came to Florida with multi-
point plans of action, set goals and timetables for completion of tasks, offering real
leadership for participating agencies. This effort maintained momentum throughout
the 1980s. By the 1990s, the effort had fallen apart. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service was doing well just to disseminate information about new directives.
Coordination of effort had ceased and participating agencies were left in an
information void.106
105 Oral interviews with Biologists Darrel Land, Ken Alvarez, Sonny Bass, John Lucas and Dave
Maehr.
106 Ibid.
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So what is an agency to do without direction from the lead agency on the
project? John Forester refers to the problem of dealing with incomplete information
in an article entitled, Bounded Rationality and the Politics of Muddling
Through,107 where he states,
What is rational for administrators to do depends on the situations in
which they work. Pressed for quick recommendations, they cannot begin
long studies. Faced with organizational rivalries, competition, and turf
struggles, they may justifiably be less than wholly candid about their
plans. What is sensible to do depends on the context one is in, in ordinary
life no less than in public administration.108
Herbert Simon and James March proposed another way to think about, and
more importantly, to act on problems. They suggested a behavioral approach to
problem solving when decision making becomes fragmented or polarized. Look and
see, they say, how it is that skillful decision-makers behave, and learn from them.109
In the case of the Florida Panther Recovery Effort, there now was a dearth of skillful
decision-makers. Each agency spun into its own orbit oblivious to the needs of the
other participants.110
In practice of course, decision-makers confront opposition, resistance,
intransigence, and suspicion from other actors, as well as intermittent support all the
107 Forester, John (1984) Bounded Rationality and the Politics of Muddling Through, Public
Administration Review. 44: pp.23-31.
108 Ibid, p. 24.
109 Ibid, p. 28.
110 Dave Maehr, oral interview at tbe University of Kentucky, April 17th, 2001.
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time. The real world of administration is hardly wholly cooperative. Other actors
usually have allegiances, loyalties, and interests of their own. They may act to
protect their own agencies and they may pursue profit, status, or other rewards.111
The Florida Panther Recovery Effort suffers from the same problems that Simon
and March sought to describe and recognizethe problem of dealing with
unchecked human frailty.
Ken Alvarez and Dave Maehr, two biologists on the Florida panther
recovery project, both complained to supervisors about lack of cooperation among
interagency staff, unprofessional behavior, agenda promoting behavior, and overall
disarray with respect to the direction the project was going. In the introduction of
his book, The Florida PantherLife and Death of a Vanishing Carnivore, Dave
Maehr, a wildlife biologist by training and a nine year veteran of panther telemetry
studies, had this to say about the panther recovery effort,
Several of my colleagues advised me not to join this troubled project.
They cited the political nature of the work, dishonesty among supervisors,
severe working conditions, and unpredictable co-workers.112
This theme was also echoed by Ken Alvarez,
We have the technological tools to save the panther....
What we dont have are agencies that can or will use those resources
effectively.113
111 Forester, John (1984) Bounded Rationality and the Politics of Muddling Through, Public
Administration Review. 44: pp.23-31.
112 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther- Life and Death of a Vanishing Carnivore, p. xiv.
113 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program, p. 100.
53


This is sad commentary coming from biologists in the field who are most
knowledgeable about the status of the Florida panther. Their comments speak to the
issue of human behavior and how to corral the interests of any one group while
trying to move the project ahead. Without a coordinated approach to species
recovery and a strong direction in which to go, projects like this one will be left to
flounder. It is not enough to look at scientific data impacting a species. A successful
natural resource program should go beyond the taxonomic and habitat requirements
of a species into the critical arena of people management. If not, this will be their
downfall, and species recovery efforts will continue to be incomplete.
Trend: Lack of Leadership in the Recovery Effort
The Importance of a Coordinated Response
Combining such traits as biological competency, good communication skills,
the ability to be a sensitive listener, and a knack for problem-solving are as
necessary to the recovery process as food and cover are to panthers
themselves.
Ken Alvarez
Within the Florida panther recovery effort there is no overarching
coordinator charged with organizing and prioritizing research efforts among
participating agencies in the recovery effort.114 There is no strong name
114 Oral interview with David S. Maehr. No leadership in the recovery program creates divisiveness
among the agencies. Fish and Wildlife and NPS are creating their own capture crews independent
of Florida.
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recognition leader with national credentials to lead and direct the Florida panther
recovery effort.115 116 117 118 119
This is significant in that someone with recognized credentials in carnivore
recovery projects could not be so easily dismissed by political appointees as is
currently the case.116 117At one time John Christian, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service-Southeastern Region, filled this function. Widely respected by biologists
and agency staff alike, John Christian coordinated meetings and panther recovery
efforts until the late 1980s. After John Christian left the Fish and Wildlife Service,
leadership appears to have left with him.118119 By all accounts, The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service continues to operate the panther recovery program devoid of
leadership. This leadership vacuum creates divisiveness among the Florida agencies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as the lead agency for endangered
species recovery efforts, can choose to ignore research results originating from the
State of Florida. Conversely, the State of Florida can ignore recommendations by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Without a strong voice and skilled leadership,
these two groups do not have to actually achieve results rather they just have to
115 Oral Interview with Sonny Bass-Biologist-National Park Service-Everglades National Park.
116 Oral Interview with John Lucas, Conservation Director, White Oak Plantation, repository for
Florida panthers taken from the wild.
117 Oral Interview with Dave Maehr at the University of Kentucky, April 2001.
118 Oral Interview with David S. Maehr.
119 Oral Interview with Ken Alvarez.
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show intent to recover a particular species. Numerous recovery plans, habitat plans
and captive breeding plans demonstrate that research is being done. It does not
appear to be a coordinated effort however, and individuals who are closely
connected to these efforts cant cite a clear direction where recovery efforts might
be heading. When asked, Who should provide leadership for on-going recovery
efforts? Respondents generally indicate that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
needs to take a lead position and a proactive role. Without a strong voice or
advocate for the Florida panther, a representative who speaks to all on-going
recovery efforts, the project becomes mired in disjointed effort.
Part of the leadership problem seems to stem from the fact that research that
is done in the field on Florida panthers and panther habitat is carried out by
relatively low ranking biologists (non-political appointees). Their research results
are often challenged on other than scientific grounds when it conflicts with political
agendas. If there were a name biologist involved in the program, it would not be
so easy to dismiss research results that conflict with difficult political choices such
as habitat acquisition and what approach to take in organizing like interests doing
the same research.
Carnivore recovery efforts elsewhere in the country certainly have benefited
from a person in a lead position that was listened to by most, if not all researchers
and politicians on a project. Ed Bangs who played a lead role in wolf recovery
56


efforts in Wyoming is a good example of leadership and the coordinating effects it
can have on a project.120
Without an interagency group focus, it is difficult for agencies with
competing constituencies and budgets to move in one direction with respect to a
coordinated game plan for endangered species recovery. Competing agencies have
competing researchers who promote specific agency agendas. Their agency
missions and mindsets dictate how they should carry out their specific duties. It is
difficult if not impossible to coordinate these disparate missions and interests. If
there is no change in the current approach to Florida panther recovery efforts, the
likely result will beno benefit to the Florida panther. As long as political
infighting is tolerated, there is not much reason to believe that money will solve the
panthers problems.
Trend: Failure to use Science Well
One of the persistent problems confronting policy makers is the issue of how
to use science well and which science to believe within the vast sea of data
unleashed on policy makers. In the arena of Florida panther recovery, the most
controversial area regarding science informing policy involves the management (or
lack thereof) of Florida white-tail deer populations. This seemingly simple idea
involves regulating a very powerful and politically savvy constituency of the Florida
120 Ed Bangs (1998) Restoring Wolves to the West, in Robert B. Keiter, ed, Reclaiming the Native
Home of Hope, University of Utah Press: Salt Lake City.
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Game and Freshwater Fish Commission: Florida hunters. How does science relate to
what we know about the interactions between deer, panthers and hunters and how
does this knowledge translate or thwart sound public policy?
The Florida Panther Technical Advisory Council (comprised of five
scientists appointed by the governor in 1983 after panther #3 was inadvertently
killed by a tranquilizer dart) recommended that key panther habitat be identified,
protected, and managed as a unit. The Council strongly endorsed the creation of a
habitat map in order to ascertain what landscapes panthers prefer and where white
tailed deer are distributed within these landscapes. This they thought was necessary
in order to insure a stable prey base for the Florida panther.
The Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission did not reply to these
recommendations.121 Biologists working on mapping key habitat areas for the
Florida panther surmised that the Commission did not want to alienate its
constituencyhunters and influential ranchers who owned lands occupied by
panthers. 122 Hereafter, the Panther Recovery Effort became a tug of war between
the need for science and the implications that science might have on the hunting
populace, the powerful and vocal constituency of the Game and Freshwater Fish
Commission.
121 Ken Alvarez minutes from the Interagency Task Force meetings.
I220ral Interview with Dave Maehr at the University of Kentucky, April 2001.
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Sport Hunting and Agency Management of the
White-Tailed Deer
Hunters in South Florida regard the white-tailed deer as a prime recreational
target while the Florida panther relies on the white tailed deer as its primary prey
base along with feral hogs. How does science direct and inform management of the
white-tailed deer? How do policy-makers manage for a species recovery in the face
of strong constituent antipathy against any regulation involving deer hunting?
The habitat map was only the first scientific salvo perceived by hunters as an
attempt to shut down deer hunting in South Florida. The Council also wanted to
address the issue of hunting on public lands, specifically hunting in the Big Cypress
Preserve. The Preserve had few panthers and fewer deer. It was unknown whether
or not the Preserve had enough deer to support a panther population. It was also not
clear whether hunting alone had suppressed the deer population, or if there were
other factors.
There are numerous hunting camps all over the Big Cypress. Every year
seems to bring more and more hunters to the area, a problem that the National Park
Service (NPS) officials really did not have the means to address without instituting
some strict limits on hunting and hunters. Hunters were not the only problem.
People in general were able to penetrate further and further into the Big Cypress
Preserve with the aid of Off Road Vehicles disrupting predator and prey alike.
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The Florida Panther Technical Advisory Council recommended that the
Florida Game Commission consult with the National Park Service in order to cut
back on hunting in the preserve. Some of the suggestions included: reducing the
number of hunters and off-road vehicles, shortening the deer season, forbidding the
use of dogs, closing certain areas so that local prey populations could bounce back.
To any suggestion that hunting be limited, the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish
Commission replied as it always had: The panther has coexisted with hunting for
years.123
The hunting issue gets more interesting when research data point to the
white-tailed deer and its importance to the Florida panther as a primary prey base.
Numerous biologists have suggested that agencies involved with Florida panther
recovery efforts, should manage for the white-tailed deer, yet there is much
hesitation and trepidation in dealing with this one species. According to three
researchers who have studied the influences of hunting on the behavior of white-
tailed deer,124 there are real consequences to ignoring this very basic component of
panther biology.
Other researchers have found that hunting may actually enhance prey
populations for the Florida panther because hunters drive deer from roaded areas to
123Charles Fergus (1996) Swamp Screamer, pp. 142-143.
124 Kilgo, J.C., Labinsky, R.F. and D.E. Fritzen, 1998. Influences of Hunting on the Behavior of
White-Tailed Deer: Implications for Conservation of the Florida Panther, Conservation Biology.
Dec 1 1998 12:6.
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roadless areas where the panthers have an easier time accessing the deer.125 These
same researchers have also found that the nocturnal nature of deer during the
hunting season may enhance the success of predator/prey contact as panthers are
also nocturnal hunters.126 A study by Everglades National Park personnel
demonstrates that prey densities of the white-tailed deer influence the breeding
density and thus the carrying capacity for the Florida panther. Fewer deer mean
fewer panthers.127
125 We suggest that the altered behavior patterns of deer during the hunting season may have
important implications for the potential reintroduction of the Florida panther to the Osceola NF-
Okefenokee NWR region. Although human hunting for deer may reduce the overall prey base for
panthers, behavioral responses of deer to human hunting may be partially offsetting for the following
reasons. First, Beldon and Hagedom (1993) found that western cougars released on the Osceola NF
in 1988 established home ranges that followed major drainages and included relatively few roads.
The tendency for deer to move away from roads during hunting season and to prefer relatively
roadless blocks of mature pine and swamp habitat may enhance panther hunting success by
increasing prey concentrations in areas preferred by panthers. Second, the nocturnal nature of deer
during the hunting season also may enhance the hunting success for panthers, largely nocturnal
predators. Finally, if panthers respond to shifting distributions of their prey base, the increased
avoidance of roads by deer may concurrently diminish the frequency of panther occurrence near
roads, reducing both the probability of panther-vehicle collisions, a principal cause of death for
Florida panthers (Maehr et. Al. 1991), and human sightings which can facilitate indiscriminate
killing of panthers (Beldon and Flagedom 1993).
126 Ibid.
127 Tommy R. Smith and Oron L.Bass, Jr. gathered data on the distribution and abundance of Florida
panthers and white tailed deer in Everglades National Park between 1986 and 1989.127 They found
that the availability of large prey appears to limit the breeding density of panthers in the eastern
Everglades and, hence, determines its carrying capacity for panthers, estimated at 5-10. The
Everglades NP is thought to be a biological sink for panthers, meaning that the animals do not
replace themselves, expanding and colonizing the area. Panthers end up in the Everglades as a last
resort. They are either old or infirm and unable to compete for higher quality habitat further north.
Panthers like people prefer higher ground to swamps, they especially prefer cypress hammocks and
piney woods.
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Which science most appropriately informs public policy for Florida panther
recovery efforts? The Florida Panther Technical Advisory Council recommended
that the Game Commission ask the Park Service for permission to do radio
telemetry research on both panthers and deer in the Everglades. The Game
Commission requested, and the park superintendent (Mike Finley, now retired from
Yellowstone NP) refused. He agreed that research ought to be done, but not on the
undisturbed animals in his park.128
Ken Alvarez made the interesting comment that, In most cases, about
seven years seems to pass between when a crucial step is advocated and when it
finally gets implemented. 129 Even then the step is usually taken only because of
outside pressure, such as the lawsuit brought by the environmental group (Fund for
the Animals) that forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to write a habitat
preservation plan for the panther. The 1991 lawsuit initiated by Fund for the
Animals and spearheaded by Holly Jensen, a nurse in central Florida, also shut
down captive breeding plans put forth by the Florida panther recovery team.
Captive breeding never got a foothold within the recovery effort after the
lawsuit. Jensons lawsuit was filed under the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA) and the Administrative Procedures Act. The lawsuit accused U.S. Fish and
128 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program, p. 215.
129 Ken Alvarez, personal correspondence.
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Wildlife Service of failing to prepare an adequate review of habitat requirements for
the Florida panther.
If the science of one group gets in the way of a preferred political
outcome, it is always possible to perform a sort of scientific bait and switch
operation. For example, the National Park Service, the Florida Department of
Natural Resources, and the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission could
always trump the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by creating another committee, one
that would give the appearance of professional propriety yet do the bidding of the
three agencies.
There might also be an added benefit of perhaps making the Florida Panther
Technical Advisory Committee appear unnecessary to the real task of recovering
panthers. This is how the Florida Panther Interagency Committee was formed in
1986. Its members would come from four agencies: The National Park Service, The
Game and Freshwater Fish Commission, The Florida Department of Natural
Resources and lastly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The FPIC quickly
designated its own technical subcommittee, stocking it with scientists from within
the agencies themselves, to evaluate any future proposals, efforts, or research.
In Twilight of the PantherBiology, Bureaucracy and Failure in an
Endangered Species Program, Ken Alvarez provides a scathing indictment of the
agencies charged with securing the recovery of the Florida panther. When faced
with the issue of managing for more deer in South Florida, Alvarez cites the
63


following exchange that is but one example of the difficulty of applying science to a
people problem.
The regional director of the National Park Service, in his letter to Senator
[Lawton] Chiles, opposed any mandate to manage for more deer. He
resorted again to the now-discredited excuse that the National Park Service
was prohibited by law from managing for a single species.130
Alvarez elaborates,
Resource management as conceived in the National Park Service owes more
to esthetic and philosophical leanings than to any scientific discipline.131 132 133
To date, Park Service responses to intervention proposals have fallen into
three categories. The first has been the creative exercises in illusion that
employ highly visible committees, research dollars and public relations
techniques to convince that a rigorous no-nonsense, state-of-the-art rescue is
underway. The second has been the repeated assertion that the idea is
contrary to ecosystems management. The third has been to claim that the
only permissible remedy is to expand the park to the size that will prevent
the loss of its wildlife. This is a magic wand solutiona refusal to
confront reality. 132 133
130 Alvarez, K. (1993) Twilight of the Panther: Biology, Bureaucracy and Failure in the Endangered
Species Program, p. 215.
131 Ibid. p. 216.
132 Ibid, pp.214-217.
133 Panama City attorney and environmental activist Jerry Gerde initiated a letter writing campaign to
state legislators that necessitated state and federal agency response. The Fish and Wildlife Service
said that they would take the matter into consideration after further evaluation of the data. The
Executive Director of the Florida Department of Natural Resources answered favorably to having the
National Park Service increase its deer, but was against a common plan on the grounds that some of
the agencies might have policies which would prevent them from doing it. The Game Commission
letter dodged the issues with a rambling response about not having to prepare comprehensive land
management plans for their respective properties. The National Park Service wrote that mandates
prevented such joint management plans altogether.
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The Florida Department of Natural Resources is not alone in the area of
problematic science and its integration into public policy. According to David
Maehr, a former biologist with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish
Commission, and Darrell Land, a current biologist with the Florida Game and Fresh
Water Fish Commission, the Commission is world renown in terms of its technical
competence and reputation for being a first class research organization. 134 135Yet it
suffers from agency malaise when it comes to implementing a viable panther
recovery plan.
The Fish and Game Commission was the first Florida agency to direct
funding at panther recovery. It was the lead agency in terms of determining how
many panthers were in the wild, where were they in the wild, and determining
habitat requirements for a far reaching, roaming carnivore.136 However, since the
Commissions base constituency is the hunting community, the Commission must
carefully maneuver within and around the hunting community if it is to continue to
function in the politically charged waters of endangered species protection.
Yet, as Kilgo etal, Maehr, Beldon and Hagedom all have demonstrated
there is reason to believe that hunters and panthers could co-exist nicely. However,
their science does not get much attention from agency personnel or more 134 135
134 Oral interview with Dave Maehr.
135 Personal Correspondence with Darrell Land, Field Biologist with the Florida Game and
Freshwater Fish Commission.
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importantly, political appointees. Additionally, competing ecosystem restoration
plans in the works for wood storks, the Florida snail kite and the Florida panther
could have dire consequences for the Florida panther should the State of Florida
restore water levels to their historic flows envisioned in the 1999 Multi-species
recovery plan.136 137 This most certainly will affect the panthers prey basethe white
tailed deer.
Trend: Uncertainty Regarding the Biology of the
Florida Panther
Within the Florida panther recovery plan, there has been a great deal of
uncertainty regarding questionable breeding techniques proposed by veterinarians
and others in order to meet stated recovery goals of three viable, self-sustaining
populations of Felis concolor coryi within its historic range. In order to understand
what a Florida panther is it is often informative to discuss what it is not.
The panther of Florida is actually a puma, a member of the species Felis
concolor, whose Latin name means cat of one color. It is called Felis concolor
coryi because a man named Charles Cory shot one at the end of the nineteenth
century and described the animal for science.138
136 Ibid.
137 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1999) South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan-A Species
Plan, An Ecosystem Approach, Southeast Region, May 1999, Atlanta, Georgia.
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Felis concolor (cougar, mountain lion, puma, and many other common
names), has fifteen recognized subspecies in North America, one of which is the
Florida panther, F. concolor coryi.. The most comprehensive taxonomic review of
the species was described by Samuel Young and Edward Goldman in their 1946 text
entitled, The Puma: Mysterious American Cat. In it, Young and Goldman describe
the Florida panther as a medium-sized, dark subspecies, with pelage short and
rather stiff. Its long limbs, small feet, and rich ferruginous colors are distinctive.138 139
Three external characters that are often observed on Florida panthers are not
found in combination on other subspecies of F. concolor. These distinguishing
features are usually described as a right-angle crook at the terminal end of the tail, a
whorl of hair resembling a cowlick in the middle of the back and irregular white
flecking on the head, nape, and shoulders.140 Apparently, from at least one point of
view, the Florida panther is unique.141
138 Cory was curator of the Department of Ornithology at the Field Museum of Natural History in
Chicago. In his 1896 book, Hunting and Fishing in Florida, Cory wrote:
The Florida panther is still not uncommon in the more unsettled portions of the state. It is somewhat
smaller and more rufous in color than its northern brethren, and its feet are smalls- in proportion to
the size of the animal. It is comparatively shy and is difficult to find an account of its habit of
continually wandsing about, rarely staying long in one place unless attracted thse by an unusual
abundance of food, such as the vicinity of a hog camp or whse des are very plenty; but as a rule
they move about a great deal often traveling twenty miles or more in a night.
139 Outram Bangs, The land mammals of peninsular Florida and the coast region of Georgia, Proc.
Boston Soc. Nat. History 28:233.
140 Young, S.P. and E. A. Goldman (1946) The Puma: Mysterious American Cat, The American
Wildlife Institute, Washington, D.C.
141 Chris Beldon and D.J. Forrests, A specimen of Felis concolor coryi in Florida, J.Mammal,
61:160.
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Young and Goldman established that the Florida panther intergraded142 with
several other subspecies, including the eastern cougar, Texas puma, and Rocky
Mountain cougar. This observation would have significant bearing a half-century
later as wildlife agencies wrestle with the concept of genetic management of an
isolated, remnant population. Without explicitly saying so, Young and Goldman
implied that Felis concolor was distributed without interruption throughout its
range. In other words, the Florida panther was nothing more than a distant relative
of cougars elsewhere, isolated in space by geography on a peninsular island. David
Maehr refers to this phenomenon as one continuous cougar continuum.143
As an adult, a panther possesses all of the requisite predator equipment
including sharp claws ideally suited for flaying prey and one-and-a-quarter-inch
canine teeth set into short powerful jaws.144 However, despite possessing the
anatomical equipment for killing anything it might encounter, the Florida panther is
unlike its western relatives in that it has never been documented as a killer of
142 From Young and Goldman, a word used in biological texts to describe cross-breeding.
143 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther- Life and Death of a Vanishing Carnivore, Island Press:
Washington D.C., Covelo, California, p.42.
144 Ibid.
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humans.145 Although Florida panthers, like cougars elsewhere, occasionally kill
livestock, they seem unusually tolerant of people.146
This phenomenon is consistent with studies done on oceanic islands.147 The
implication here is that panthers living on peninsular Florida have lost, through
evolution, some degree of wariness similar to other predators on true islands? 148
This might explain why there has never been a fatality attributed to a Florida
panther. This last point might prove to be quite significant if attempts to interbreed
Florida panthers with imported cats go forward. What is a Florida panther? No one
seems to really know. Perhaps it is a mountain lion/cougar/puma that has simply
adapted to a flat and swampy terrain, within an island state.
During discussions regarding whether or not the Florida panther would
continue to have the genetic wherewithal to survive in the wild, one theory was
advanced that the panther is not really a panther at all, it is nothing more than a
mongrel cat, and thus deserves no special protection. In 1990, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service issued a draft statement authored by the Regional Director James
145 Ibid, p.44.
146 Belden, R.C. (1989) The Florida Panther (originally published as: Audubon
Wildlife report) National Audubon Society. New York pp.513-532.
147 Charles Darwin, The Galapagos Islands, 1933.
148 Maehr, D.S.(1999) Large Carnivores in an Island Paradise? Wild Earth. Winter 1999/2000,9:4,
pp. 56-61.
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Pulliam, entitled, Genetic Management, the Hybrid Policy Under the Endangered
Species Act, and Species Concepts, in which Pulliam states,
The Florida panther introgression problem is complicated but still appears
resolvable. We would be very concerned if introgression now found in some
Florida panthers clearly produced consistent morphological or behavioral
differences that are distinct from pure Florida panthers, other than the loss
of characteristics probably derived from extensive inbreeding. The probable
loss of inbred features through introgression from other mountain lion
populations should not be considered detrimental from the perspective of
losing genetic integrity of the taxon. Rather, the loss of these characters
should be considered essential to maintaining the population.149
James Pulliam seems to suggest that cowlicks, crooked tails and flecked
necks do not necessarily define a Florida panther. If Florida panthers do not happen
to exhibit any of these characteristics, no problem, as long as some population of
cougar continues to exist in its place in South Florida. Without a cowlick and
crooked tail the future Florida panther could easily resemble any cougar in the
continental United States and it need not be related to cats that evolved in the piney
woods and swamps of South Florida.
Wildlife biologists recognize the significance of these adaptations as specific
and unique to an isolated population of cats, called the Florida panther. This
discussion calls into question the very sanctity of a species, especially one that is
highly endangered and happens to be a high profile symbol of Florida also known as
megafauna. Hybrids arent protected under the Endangered Species Act.
149 James Pulliam, Genetic Management, the Hybrid Policy Under the Endangered Species Act, and
Species Concepts, pp. 44-49.
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Genetic Intro gression and Out-breedingThe Captive
Breeding Program Held Captive Through Litigation.
In 1991, The Fund for the Animals filed a lawsuit to halt removal of Florida
panthers from the wild. Up until this point, captive breeding of Florida panthers, at
least on a limited scale had been tried. Approximately 14 kittens were removed from
Florida prior to 1991.150 Since the lawsuit, none have been captured for the purpose
of increasing populations in areas north of the Everglades. Instead those individuals
that did not die are languishing as adults in conservation compounds such as the
White Oak Plantation in North Florida while others were placed in zoos. As adults,
these panthers have limited use for returning to the wild where they would have
supplemented the dwindling gene pool.151
Unnecessary removal of Florida panthers from the wild for the purpose of
conducting dubious experiments continue to deplete the supply of wild specimens,
thus further aggravating a desperate situation. Fortunately almost half of the
population of Florida panthers in South Florida are holding on within the confines
of private lands out of reach of the public land manager.152
150 Op Cit, p. 44.
151 Personal correspondence with John Lucas of White Oak Plantation, a sanctuary of sorts for
injured and panthers deprived of their social networks.
152 Maehr, D.S.(1999) Large Carnivores in an Island Paradise? Wild Earth. Winter 1999/2000,9:4,
pp. 56-61.
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Unclear Definition Surrounding the Term Recovery
Since the highly publicized cat fight regarding captive breeding and the
Fund for the Animals lawsuit, public support for Florida panther recovery efforts
have waned. Many of the original panther researchers have left the interagency
effort in disgust.153 Funding for Florida panther research and recovery efforts
continues through the issuance of Florida panther license plates. While the license
plate revenue continues to provide a steady supply of research dollars, it cannot
match the considerable outpouring of support generated in the early days of the
program. Early on, the program received considerable monies from the State of
Florida and from the Federal Government. Now the State of Florida provides most
of the funding and research effort.154
It is problematic that there is no real plan of attack as to how to achieve three
self-sustaining populations of panthers as described in the 1987 Florida panther
recovery plan. How do we achieve three viable self-sustaining populations within
the panthers historic range? How do we achieve even one? Through genetic
manipulation? Through captive breeding? Should we more aggressively support
panthers in the wild within an expanded habitat? Each option for increasing the
herd has its proponents and detractors based on their scientific expertise and biases.
153 Personal Interview with David Maehr, University of Kentucky.
154 U.S. General Accounting Office Report, Endangered Species: Management Improvements Could
Enhance Recovery Program (Gaithersburg, Maryland: U.S. General Accounting Office, December
1988)3.
72


Proponents of genetic manipulation vis-a-vis the introduction of related
species of cougars to South Florida, believe that the extant gene pool of the Florida
panther is too small and inbred to maintain fertility levels.155 They are the
proponents of artificial manipulation of the Florida panther gene pool in an effort to
save something at least superficially resembling a Florida panther. Genetic
manipulation via the introduction of cats from within the Florida panthers historic
range has been attempted with limited success.156
One effort at manipulating the Florida panther gene pool was to import
Texas cougars into Florida to add diversity to the Florida panther gene pool. This
experiment failed. The majority of Texas cougars were either killed on roads by
vehicular traffic or in competition for territory with established Florida panthers.157
However, one interesting outcome is that forty hybrid kittens were conceived by the
mating of Texas cougars and Florida panthers.158
If Florida intends to establish three viable self-sustaining populations within
the panthers historic range, the stated goal of all Florida panther recovery plans,
155 Hedrick, P.W.(1995) Gene Flow and Genetic Restoration: The Florida Panther as a Case Study,
Conservation Biology. 9:5, pp.996-1007.
156 Maehr, D.S., G.B. Caddick (1995) Demographics and Genetic Introgression in the Florida
Panther, Conservation Biology 9:5, pp.1295-1298.
157 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther- Life and Death of a Vanishing Carnivore. Island Press,
Washington D.C./ Covelo, California.
158 Ibid.
73


revised and updated in 1987,1985 and 1999159 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, the actual goal of Florida panther recovery efforts may well be the removal
of Felis concolor coryi from the wild. There now seems to be a greater interest in
preserving a remnant population of purebred Florida panthers in a captive breeding
facility then there is the will to preserve this species in the wild. In order to achieve
three viable self-sustaining populations [of Florida panther] within the panthers
historic range, in general terms this means that x number of breeding pairs of
Florida panthers would need to be established in the wild. Where do x number of
breeding pairs come from?
Removal of kittens, for example showed promise in terms of re-establishing
populations elsewhere in the state. Kittens are not yet part of the social fabric of
panther behavior. Since the kittens have not had a chance yet to establish territories,
removing kittens appear to be the least disruptive approach to re-establishing new
social groups in different locations. This approach also has the added benefit of
females breeding again shortly after the removal of kittens, thus producing more
panthers.160
159 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1987, 1994,1994, 1999 original and revised editions of the
Florida Panther Recovery Plan and South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan.
160 Maehr, D.S., G.B. Caddick (1995) Demographics and Genetic Introgression in the Florida
Panther, Conservation Biology 9:5, pp.1295-1298.
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Yet this approach was abandoned in favor of out-breedingthe introduction
of pumas from elsewhere in order to strengthen the Florida stock genetically.161
Removal of all wild Florida panthers has been considered, especially when expert
opinion from time to time predicts that Felis concolor coryi is on its way out. On
these occasions, captive breeding is proposed as an alternate goal by those, usually
veterinarians and others who are affiliated with zoos, who maintain that the existing
population of Florida panthers in the wild is too small to sustain itself without
intervention, e.g. capture and captive breeding.162
Lack of consensus within the scientific community regarding recovery
approaches reinforces the need to map out all positions and decision-making options
prior to going forward with any one plan.163 These factors lead to the possibility of
multiple goals or conflicting goals. The existing discrepancy between the stated and
actual goals of the panther recovery effort suggests that there is room for a deeper
investigation of the Florida panther recovery program.
According to Robert K. Merton when goals are in conflict,
Adherence to the rules, originally conceived as a means, becomes
transformed into an end in itself; there occurs the familiar process of
161 State of Florida (1985) Panther Preservation in the Big Cypress National Preserve: A Discussion
of the Issues, Tallahassee, Florida.
162 U.S. Department of the Interior (1994) Captive Cougars May Aid Florida Panther Project, Park
Science. Fall 1994 14:4, pp.26.
163 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1985) Fakahatchee Strand: A Florida Panther Habitat
Preservation Proposal, Collier County, Florida: Final Environmental AssessmentlprepwceA by the
United States Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia.
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displacement of goals whereby instrumental value becomes a terminal
value.164
In the case of the Florida panther, what is the preferred outcome? Do we protect the
species known as the Florida panther in the wild or do we meet stated goals of
recovery by means of captive breeding and hybridization of any species resembling
the Florida panther?
What is a Florida Panther?
What is the legal and scientific definition of a Florida panther beyond the
Latin binomial Felis concolor coryil No one knows. There is no formal legal or
scientific definition of a Florida panther accepted by the agencies charged with
saving this species. There continues to be much concern as to what species would be
protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act if Texas cougars or cougars
imported from other parts of country were to inbreed with Florida panthersa
separate and distinct species. When dealing with a small, endangered population, it
is best to proceed with caution, at least that is what researchers who have studied the
Florida panther gene pool have indicated165
164 Op Cit, p. 561.
165 Personal Correspondence with David Maehr.
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David Maehr believes that there is no reason to introduce new cougars into
Florida because the picture that is painted of the decrepit, genetically in-bred Florida
panther is simply not true.
With the release of eight female Texas cougars {Felis concolor Stanley and)
into south Florida between March and July 1995, natural resource agencies
have embarked on a task that is intended to restore the genetic integrity of
the Florida panther (F. c. coryi). Although this intentional genetic
introgression may, if successful, eliminate phenotypic characters that are
presumed to derive from inbreeding, there is insufficient evidence to support
the contention that such drastic management is currently necessary.166
In other words, there is no genetic threat to the species of Felis concolor coryi.
The notions of genetic and demographic collapse endure to this day despite data that
suggest otherwise.167
There is still considerable debate between wildlife biologists and
veterinarians regarding what morphological characteristics define Felis concolor
coryi. Wildlife biologists tend to think that the purebred Florida panther is a
separate and distinct sub-species of cougar. They prefer management options that
attend to the needs of the Florida panthers habitat requirements. They argue for
more aggressive approaches to securing prime panther habitat including cooperative
agreements with private landowners.
Veterinarians, on the other hand, tend to argue that crooked tails, cowlicks,
and white flecks are genetic anomalies just as cryto-orchism, septal defects of the
166 Maehr, D.S., G.B. Caddick (1995) Demographics and Genetic Introgression in the Florida
Panther, Conservation Biology 9:5, pp. 1295-1298.
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heart, and other deformities are a result of inbreeding a too small gene pool. They
propose to initiate captive breeding and genetic manipulation via outcrossing to
other cougar sub-species.168 What are the tradeoffs involved in pursuing multiple
strategies simultaneously?
Without a clear definition of Florida panther, conflict between competing
interests continues. Until or unless these issues are resolved, the goal of three viable
panther populations in the wild will not be realized. Meanwhile political appointees
are terrified that the Florida panther may indeed disappear on their watch. 167
167 Oral interview with Dave Maehr, Feb. 17th 2001.
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CHAPTER 4
RECOMMENDATIONSA CONSIDERATION OF
THE ALTERNATIVES
Current alternatives for enhancing Florida panther recovery efforts focus on
two general areas 1) Trying to involve landowners in meaningful, realistic ways;
and 2) Trying to find a more integrated solution through more collaborative
governance structures. The following recommendations are suggested in order to
significantly involve citizens and their government for one single purpose: the
recovery of the Florida panther.
High Quality Habitat for the Florida Panther
First, in order to protect the panther it is necessary to determine where the
panther lives. Therefore it seems quite reasonable to develop a site-specific habitat
preservation strategy for the lands considered essential to maintaining the Florida
panther population south of Caloosahatchee River at its present level. Strategies
should emphasize preservation of suitable panther habitat on private lands by
methods that retain private ownership of those lands to the extent possible.169 We
should provide economic incentives to landowners for protecting essential panther
habitat.
169 Ibid.
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Pay property owners cash for the value of rights or provide income tax and
estate tax credits or work out other methods of payment agreeable to both parties.
Lease or purchase non-agricultural development rights (rights for any development
that is not related to or required for agricultural production). Next, develop a series
of wildlife corridors through private and public lands to allow panthers to cross
land/water obstacles such as the dredged Kissimmee and Caloosahatchee Rivers.
This would eliminate the need for reintroduced panthers in other parts of the state if
South Florida panthers had access to key panther pipelines to the north. Purchase
conservation easements for this purpose where necessary.
New Strategies Targeting the Private Sector
A Proving Ground for Conservation Strategies
Private Organizations Experiment
Due to the pace of breakneck development in Florida, some new approaches
for saving habitat and species have been developed by non-governmental
organizations, such as mitigation banking. Before bulldozers can roll, a corporation
has to pay, say $10 million to a fund; the $10 million is combined with millions
from other corporations with similar plans, and this lump sum provides the millions
needed to buy a large cattle ranch or other parcel vital to panther survival.
Mitigation banking can save large tracts of landone thousand, five thousand, ten
thousand acres. There, natural processes can continue, creatures and offspring can
80


disperse in a habitual manner rather than being dispersed to ever-smaller vestiges of
primitive Florida.170
In Florida, the Nature Conservancy, a privately funded national organization, is
actively buying land and giving it to the state and federal governments. A state
program, Preservation 2000, enacted by the Florida legislature in 1990, provides for
spending some $300 million per year during the last decade of the century to
preserve wildlife habitat. As of 1991, 8 million acres of Florida had been set aside in
public and private preserves; the land targeted for Preservation 2000 would add over
3 million acres to this figure. Conservationists covet another 6.3 million acres and if
these could somehow be acquired, they would bring the total protected land area in
Florida to 17.5 million acres: 47 percent of the state.171
Presumably, private and public partnerships will evolve as the Florida
legislature embraces tax strategies and land use laws that help the Florida panther.172
Florida will continue to add population beyond the existing 14 million residents,173
thus intensifying development pressures. The Florida Stewardship Foundation
recently has had some success in getting laws passed to preserve large private tracts
of land using a combination of tax incentives, aid to farmers, and safe harbor
170 Florida Stewardship Foundation, Incentive-based Programs and Techniques to Protect Natural
Resources and Florida Panther Habitat on Private Lands, A Field Manual, June 1995.
171 The Nature Conservancy, Florida Chapter News, Summer 2000, p. 6-7.
172 Florida Legislature House Resolution, HB 9477,1998.
173 U.S. Census 2000, Florida Demographics by County.
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language for private landowners who have documented endangered species on their
properties.
Current legislation in various stages of passage include:
A Resource Conservation Agreement program created as a state bill by the Florida
State Legislature. The language of this bill grants authority to create a Resource
Conservation Agreement program within the Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services. Up until now, the Resource Conservation Agreement has been
carried out solely through model projects funded by USDA's Natural Resources
Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and private funding
sources.
On Wednesday, May 2, 2001, the "Rural and Family Lands Protection Act"
(HB 1389 and SB 1758) was added to S. 1922, the general bill for the Florida
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with the Rural Lands
Stewardship Program from the state's Growth Management Bill, HB 1617. S.1922
was passed back through the House with amendments on May 3,2001 and then
passed to the Senate.
In May 2001, Congress was set to pass a budget resolution, a blueprint for
federal spending for the next ten years. The Bill known as the "Reed-Jeffords-
Leahy" letter to the Senate Budget Committee. The Bill is designed to boost funding
for USDA conservation assistance programs. The budget resolution provides a rare
chance to reward private landowners that combat sprawl. Farmers and ranchers
82


serve as the frontline against sprawl, but more than two million acres of farm, ranch,
and forests are developed every year. Federal aid to purchase development rights
can protect high-quality farmland and ranchland from sprawl.
The Bill also is designed to rescue polluted runoff from agricultural use.
Agriculture is a leading source of water pollution, however, many farmers want to
adopt practices that reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, and restore wetlands and
streamside buffers to filter runoff. These practices will help keep drinking water
treatment clean.174 The Bill also protects endangered species. Most imperiled
species rely on private lands. Unfortunately, many conventional farming practices
threaten one third of imperiled species by eliminating woodlands and grasslands,
using too much water, or applying excessive amounts of nutrients and chemicals.
Many farmers are willing to adopt practices that protect and restore wildlife habitat,
such as retiring sensitive lands, irrigating more efficiently, or adopting harvest
practices that protect birds.175
Creativity and the Endangered Species Act
The Promise of Section 4
Few laws have fallen as short of their goals as the Endangered Species Act.
The ESA, the pit-bull of environmental legislation, seeks to conserve species. In a
174 This Bill along with all proposed revisions of the 1986 Farm Bill are on hold as of January
2002. The Congress allowed debate over these bills to continue unchallenged until Congress recessed
for Christmas break in December, 2001.
175 E-mail correspondence with Craig Evans-Executive Director of Florida Stewardship Foundation.
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narrow sense, the ESA has successfully conserved some species by delaying their
otherwise imminent extinction. However, one of the ESAs broader goalsthe
recovery of listed specieshas gone unmet. Political opposition to the Acts
restrictive effect on land development meanwhile has mushroomed.
Using Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act creatively can provide safe
harbors for the Florida panther throughout Florida. Section 4 of the 1973
Endangered Species Act has a provision for acquiring critical habitat needed by
endangered species, yet this provision in the Act has been little used since the Acts
creation. Other projects have successfully utilized Section 4 in working with private
landowners, yet the State of Florida has failed to consider this option.176 177
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could initiate reforms without further
statutory authorization that could improve the recovery prospects of many listed
species in two ways, first, by insisting on stringent mitigation measures on high
acreage, and second, by utilizing regional habitat conservation plans or HCPs.
Frequently drafted by interested landowners and local government entities, HCPs
are legally binding plans that specify, in part, those measures a party must take to
176 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther and the Endangered Species Act of 1973,
Environmental and Urban Issues. 24:4, pp. 1-8.
177 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther and the Endangered Species Act of 1973,
Environmental and Urban Issues. 24:4, pp. 1-8.
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minimize the impacts of its proposed actions on a listed species.178 Section 10 of the
ESA allows the FWS to issue an incidental take permit if an applicants HCP would
reduce appreciably the likelihood of the species survival and recovery.179
An incidental take permit typically allows the permittee to develop some
portion of a listed species habitat in exchange for the permittees setting aside of
other habitat and engaging in other protective measures. Private landowners whose
property contains listed species habitat would not develop HCPs absent Section 9
of the ESA.180 Section 9 (a)(1)(B) makes it unlawful for any person to take any
such listed species within the United States. This section impacts a wide variety of
actions on private land, from killing a listed species to clearing habitat of a listed
species for any reason.181
Section 4 of the 1973 Endangered Species Act has a provision for acquiring
critical habitat for endangered species, yet this section of the Act has not been
adequately utilized since the ESA was enacted. There are projects outside of the
State of Florida which have managed to use Section 4 successfully while working
178 Florida Fish and Game Commission and the American Farmland Trust (1995) Incentive-based
Programs and Techniques to Protect Natural Resources and Florida Panther Habitat on Private
Lands. Washington, D.C.
179 U.S. Congress (1973) Endangered Species Act of 1973, PL 93-205;16 USC 1531 Congressional
Quarterly.
180 Ibid.
181 Endangered Species Act of 1973, PL 93-205;16 USC 1531, Congressional Quarterly.
85


with private landowners. The State of Florida has not looked at any of these projects
nor has it considered the transferal of such a strategy.182 It should.
For practically every species listed as endangered or threatened, habitat loss
is mentioned as the primary cause for listing.183 Such is the rationale behind
Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act,
whereby the Secretary of the Interior shall designate critical habitat...
when a species is listed. Critical habitat is defined as:
i. the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by
the species...on which are found those physical or biological
features (I) essential to the conservation of the species and
(II) which may require special management considerations or
protection; and
ii. specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the
species.. .upon a determination by the Secretary that such
areas are essential for the conservation of the species.184
Why, then, has the designation of critical habitat for the Florida panther been
discarded as a recovery tool? For that matter, why has it only been used for a mere
16% of all listed species (Clark 1994:33)185 Probably, the rationale for not using
Section 4 of the ESA lies within the framework of private property rights. Section 4,
182 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther and the Endangered Species Act of 1973,
Environmental and Urban Issues. 24:4, pp. 1-8.
183 Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther and the Endangered Species Act of 1973,
Environmental and Urban Issues. 24:4, pp. 1-8.
184 Endangered Species Act of 1973, PL 93-205;16 USC 1531.
185 Clark, T.W., R.P. Reading, A.L. Clarke (editors) (1994) Endangered Species Recovery: Finding
the Lessons, Improving the Process. Island Press, Covelo, California.
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on the surface, appears draconian, a government display of force not unlike powers
of eminent domain. However, interestingly enough, there have been cases in the
United States where Section 4 of the ESA has been used collaboratively with
1
landowners to protect endangered species.
If the Aplomado falcon and ocelot recovery programs can use Section 4 of
the ESA effectively as a model for species recovery, why isnt there more horizontal
diffusion of this process?
The Aplomado falcon and ocelot recovery programs appear to be working
because landowners and recovery personnel got off on the right foot. Same
Act, different people.186 187
Personalities and relationships seem to be the stumbling blocks for replication of
results in a different context. The ESA contains the flexibility to allow decision-
186 From an article entitled, The Florida Panther and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, by
David S. Maehr. Recovery plans have been written for other species of endangered wildlife and
strides have been made in protecting important habitat without resorting to fee simple acquisition, or
the designation of critical habitat. Some have also been able to receive significant endorsements from
key owners of private property. Two examples include the Aplomado falcon and the ocelot. Both
species reside in south Texasthe former by virtue of cooperative agreements with landowners that
preceded reintroductions on private lands (safe harbor), the latter by virtue of the continued
existence of sufficient patches of semi-arid thomscrub, a plant community that exists primarily on
private land (Harwell and Siminski 1990). In both cases, private landowners were early participants
in the recovery process because they were recognized by local government representatives as keys to
the species futures. Unfortunately for the Florida panther, its distribution was insufficiently
understood in the late 1970s to anticipate their habitat requirements accurately..Habitat
protection for Florida panthers on private lands, while still a possibility, will now be much more
costly, time consuming, and contentious. Given that endangered species with problems comparable
to those of the panther exist under more constructive and proactive umbrella (i.e. ocelot, Aplomado
falcon), I am convinced that the critical element in successful recovery has little with adequate
funding, or the life history strategies of the species involved. Rather, success or failure is determined
by people, especially those in decision-making and public-contact positions, who are charged with
the task of recovery. In this context, individuals involved at high levels in government can,
themselves, become limiting factors in the survival of species.
187 Ibid, p. 7.
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makers to use it creativity but the Act alone cannot ignite the will to unite
administrators and private interests.
The Endangered Species Act is after all a relatively new idea that is in direct
conflict with the concept of private property rights. The social and legal institution
of private property embodies the urge to assert human dominion over nature. The
greater resistance to endangered species restoration may arise from fear of the
ESAs potential to restrict land use. However, seen in another light, endangered
animals that are restored are economically valuable commodities for trade,
consumption, or sport, and more recently eco-tourism. Landowners hope to capture
some of that value.
Another question that we all have to answer, especially in the context of the
ESA, is how much wild nature do we want, and what are we willing to give up to
get it? Protection of wild nature is a key goal of the ESA. The most pressing reform
is simple acknowledgement that wild, broadly distributed populations are the goal of
restoration. With the strategic use of Section 4, the ESA can exercise flexibility in
achieving this goal. Lack of initiative and creativity in using Section 4 of the 1973
Endangered Species Act, and other tools such as public/private partnership
arrangements, limit acquisition of critical habitat for endangered species and thus
limit the possibility of achieving broadly distributed populations.
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Citizen/Government Interactions: A Holistic Approach
to Panther Recovery
Another approach to advantaging the panther is to take a holistic approach to
resource and natural systems management. Look at all aspects of a property
including geologic, hydrologic, social and cultural. Improve cooperation and flow of
information between private landowners and governmental agencies. Establish
something akin to a Collaborative Based Initiative with a legal mandate from the
Governor and/or State Legislature in order to facilitate input from major
stakeholders and possible panther partners. Empower a citizens advisory council or
panther habitat study group via an executive order from the Governor and use
Preservation 2000/Forever Florida bond money to fund the group in order to poll
residents and gather information.
Management that Makes Sense: Agency Cooperation
and Coordination
Hire leadership for the Florida panther recovery effort. Bring in an
individual through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who is known to get results in
an endangered species recovery program. This person should have strong
credentials in biologic methods as well as good leadership/communication/listening
skills. Empower this coordinator by law. The Florida panther is a significant
symbol of wildness worldwide, where is the corresponding national/intemational
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name leading the way for the recovery effort? There are no Craighead brothers,188
no Ed Bangs,189 however there are people who have been involved in Florida
panther recovery efforts for many years.
One possibility is David Maehr who worked for the Florida Fish and Game
Commission for nine years doing telemetry research on the Florida panther.190
Maehrs wildlife interest began with birds. He co-authored a book on Florida bird
life prior to taking up panther research in earnest.191 He has since been a prolific
author on the topic of the Florida panther, authoring a book and numerous journal
articles on the subject. Ken Alvarez formerly of the Florida Department of Natural
Resources or Sonny Bass at Everglades National Park are also knowledgeable.
Multi-million dollar recovery efforts deserve a multi-talented, name leader in the
field of carnivore recovery. Another approach involving good management on the
ground would be to implement management practices on public lands that, based
on existing data, would be expected to result in improved habitat conditions for the
panther, e.g. management of the white tailed deer. Science need not be in agreement
to be useful. Policy-makers can make decisions based on aggregate information.
188 Craighead, John J., and Frank C. Craighead, Jr. (1967) Management of Bears in Yellowstone
National Park, July 1967, National Park Service files, YELL-67, pp. 17-24.
189 Keiter, Robert B. ed., (1998) Reclaiming the Native Home of Hope, Ed Bangs, Restoring Wolves
to the West. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
190Maehr, D.S.(1997) The Florida Panther- Life and Death of a Vanishing Carnivore. Island Press,
Washington D.C./ Covelo, California.
191 Maehr, D.S. Florida Birds.
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CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSIONS
In a democracy it is not sufficient just to have a few trained persons who
understand what its all about; there must also be an alert citizenry to insist that
knowledge, research and action are properly integrated.
Eugene P. Odum, Ecology 1963
As Calvin Lloyd, one of the largest landowners in Hendry county has said, We
have problems and environmentalists have problems. We need to get together to
solve each others problems. 192
The Florida panther is a natural symbol of Florida, in much the same way
that the bald eagle is a natural symbol of the United States. Yet, only approximately
40 members of the endangered subspecies remain, largely in the swampy, southern
parts of Florida. An important question faced by many policymakers, both within
and outside the state, is whether it is possible to save the Florida panther in the wild.
The Florida panther has been virtually eliminated from most of its historic
range in the Southeastern United States. A century of habitat destruction has
reduced the subspecies to a single population estimated to be no more than fifty
adults. These creatures roam over 3.1 million acres of land in Collier, Dade,
Hendry, Lee, Desoto, Glades, Sarasota and Highlands counties in South Florida. 193
192 Letter to NPS, November 29 1998.
193 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (1999) South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan-A Species
Plan, An Ecosystem Approach, Southeast Region, May 1999, Atlanta, Georgia.
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Forty-seven percent of this land is publicly owned, with much of the public
lands comprising inferior habitat for the panther. The remaining fifty three percent
of panther lands are privately held. Of the land in private ownership, biologists have
designated 926,300 acres as essential,194 or priority habitat for preservation and
recovery activities. Some of the healthiest panthers live on these private, generally
agricultural lands. Biologists believe that the preservation of panther habitat on
these private lands is essential if the animal is to avoid extinction.195
Theoretically, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could stop all development
on lands where panthers live. They could stop it tomorrow. They could, under the
Endangered Species Act, prosecute people for destroying panther habitat. In the
forty- five pages of the Endangered Species Act, there is ample evidence that to do
harm to a species by .. .developing land.. .you make the land unfit for the panthers to
live there. You cause them harm by destroying their home.
Will the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service step in to save the last remaining
habitat of the Florida panther? Doubtful. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just
194 FPIC Minutes, 22-23 June 1987 (PANTHER INFO-32, 17 July 1987).
195 According to Ken Alvarez, If the trends continue, [with] the inbreeding and the loss of habitat, I
dont see how it can possibly survive. To save the panther, well have to preserve huge tracts of
interconnected wild landwhich would be a good thing, because it would keep us from being
overrun by people. All of the problems in Floridathe endangered animals and plants, the saltwater
intrusion into freshwater aquifers, the air pollution, even the crimestem from too many people, too
much growth. The tremendous asset of panther restoration is that it will put limits on growth and
thats as asset to Floridas human population as well.
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does not have the political will or support to implement this aspect of the
Endangered Species Act.
Growth in Florida will probably continue unabated into the foreseeable
future, and with that growth, land prices will continue to escalate making it quite
expensive for public land managers to acquire private lands. If public land
managers are unable to acquire necessary lands for the Florida panther, then the next
best option, and possibly the only option is to enter into public/private land
agreements with large tract private landowners.
This approach would save Florida taxpayers considerable sums of money,
and would have the happy effect of benefiting a host of species, not just the Florida
panther as well as providing welcome tax relief to private landowners. If done right,
(by experimentingland managers can determine what right is), landowners
could become sympathetic allies in the effort to save species. This in my opinion is
the best option for saving the Florida panther and providing space to the panther for
habitat expansion. Without help from the private sector, namely private landowners
who own the only lands of prime quality for species to go, I see no future for the
Florida panther.
In order to maximize tax dollars going to panther research, coordination of
effort would seem an absolute necessity in order to avoid the dog chasing its tail
all the time with respect to research data and collaboration. It just doesnt make
sense to replicate the same effort over four or five different state and federal
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Full Text
The Policy Problem
Most policy problems could be simply construed as people problems. Lack
of trust, lack of good group dynamics, lack of leadership, lack of
coordination/cooperation, lack of funding, lack of professional expertise, competing
interests, all are conditions that sooner or later surface within the policy arena.
There are numerous books and journal articles within policy science literature that
address the problems of identifying a policy problem, and the management of policy
problems, once defined.
Tim Clark, a noted policy analyst on topics pertaining to endangered species
refers to a policy problem as all encompassing,
What is the policy problem? The problem is economic, the problem is
scientific, the problem is bureaucratic...there is no one best definition out
there. Defining a policy problem is, in our view, an inherently subjective
activity. Moreover, we see problem definition as an iterative activity,
especially when the arena is ambiguous and highly dynamic. So, our
problem definition is heavily influenced by our own perspectives, values,
and goals; as well as the nebulous nature of a particular problem area.37
Gilbert F. White attempts to clarify the difficulty of policy problem definition with
respect to natural resources,
Natural resources are taken to be culturally defined, decisions are regarded
as choices among perceived alternatives for bringing about change, and any
choice presumes a view of the resource together with preferences in
outcomes and methods. Adequate models are lacking to describe the
37 Primm, S.A., T.W. Clark (1994) The Greater Yellowstone Policy Debate: What is the Policy
Problem? Discussion Paper-Center for Public Policy Research, University of Colorado at Boulder.
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