FWC seeks public’s help to protect native species

Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:08 p.m.

Sixty species across Florida face the risk of losing the habitats they call home, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants the public’s help to save them.


Preserving wildlife

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is seeking public comment on action plans to preserve the habitats of 23 native species and subspecies, including the following:

11 bird species (Wakulla seaside sparrow, Scott’s seaside sparrow, Worthington’s marsh wren, Marian’s marsh wren, reddish egret, little blue heron, roseate spoonbill, tricolored heron, snowy egret, white ibis and osprey).

Five fish species (blackmouth shiner, Southern tessellated darter, bluenose shiner, harlequin darter and Lake Eustis pupfish).

Four mammals (Everglades mink, Sanibel island rice rat, Homosassa shrew and eastern chipmunk).

Two reptiles (Barbour’s map turtle and Suwannee cooter).

One amphibian (Pine Barrens treefrog).

ONLINE: The plans are available to read at MyFWC.com/Imperiled.

The agency has asked residents and business owners to comment on a series of online “species action plans.”

These plans — available at MyFWC.com/Imperiled — detail the natural habitats of each listed species, why it’s at risk and what can be done to save it.

“With so many species, we’re trying to have a more integrated approach,” said Diane Firth, FWC habitat and species spokeswoman. “Really, anyone can weigh in.”

Whether it’s a bird in your backyard or a small mammal on your business’s property, the FWC wants the public to offer new, innovative ideas in saving these animals — ideas that can help the species thrive and the humans who live near them maintain their land with little interruption.

Animals like the Southern tessellated darter, the little blue heron and the snowy egret are threatened in Alachua County and surrounding areas.

The action plans are about 20 to 30 pages long, said Claire Sunquist Blunden, of the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Program.

Sunquist Blunden acknowledged that some might find the plans lengthy, but she noted that the original drafts were about 300 pages long. She said the new, shorter action plans include glossaries to make them easier for the general public to understand.

“We’re trying to get as much public interest in these species as possible so people know more about them and are aware they’re in their environment,” Sunquist Blunden said.

Currently, 23 action plans — one each for 11 birds, five fish, four mammals, two reptiles and one amphibian — are available for the public to read about and remark on until March 13.

Sunquist Blunden said that after these plans close, the remaining listed species plans will be open for comment until the end of May.

“We don’t know all the answers,” Sunquist Blunden said. “By putting these out there at this early stage, we’re hoping people will let us know how the plans might impact them.”

Peter Frederick, a research professor with the UF Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, said the FWC has reached out to leading scientists, institutions and conservation agencies to gather information for the plans.

“Some of these plans address major societal problems instead of management problems,” Frederick said, adding that soliciting the public involvement “was the right way to go.”

After the public’s opinions are collected, the FWC will work to integrate the plans. This means the agency will look for commonalities — where an animal lives, what it eats — and plans to conserve multiple species at the same time.

The final plan will be one large, compiled, completed draft and will be presented to state wildlife commissioners by 2015.

“The ultimate goal is to conserve them to the point that they don’t need to be listed anymore,” Sunquist Blunden said.

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