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Investigate the troubling payments that threaten the Florida panther

Delivery to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland

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What’s At Stake

The 120 to 230 Florida panthers left in the world are hanging on by a thread as they face consistent habitat destruction and lack healthy amounts of genetic diversity. And due to unchecked suburban sprawl pushing more cars onto more roads in panther habitat, a panther is killed by motorists once every three weeks. Despite this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — the agency charged with protecting endangered wildlife — is taking payments from landowners who are seeking permits to build massive developments and mines in habitat critical to the panther’s continued survival.

Yes, you read that right: landowners are paying staff costs at the very USFWS office that is reviewing their permit application. It doesn’t take an ethicist to determine that this is not an acceptable arrangement for a government agency tasked with implementing the Endangered Species Act. We need answers and action to make sure the Florida panther isn’t driven to extinction because of unethical financial dealings. Join us in urging Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to launch an investigation into the USFWS’ concerning arrangement.

The landowners seek to destroy panther habitat to build sand and gravel mines, golf courses, and many new roads — even though wildlife experts have determined that the area should be preserved at all costs to maintain the panther population. The USFWS has the ability to deny the permits if the agency determines the developments threaten the panther — which it clearly does in this case.

But how are we to trust that the USFWS is acting in the best interest of the panther if the agency is taking payments from landowners who will profit from the panther’s losses? Until we get to the bottom of the concerning payments, we won’t have any confidence that the USFWS is using an evidence-based process to determine what the panther needs.

The Florida panther, once thought to be extinct, has persevered in the face of habitat destruction and neglect from government agencies tasked with protecting it — we cannot let that perseverance go to waste. Please join us in fighting for the Florida panther’s survival by calling on Secretary Haaland to thoroughly investigate this matter before it’s too late.

A Florida panther at White Oak Conservation Center
Frans Lanting / National Geographic

A Florida panther at White Oak Conservation Center

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