By Lindsay Cross, Executive Director, Florida Wildlife Corridor
We just learned that at least two Florida panther kittens were found north of Caloosahatchee River for first time in decades.
This is groundbreaking news for the recovery of an endangered big cat species and a clear cause for optimism. The future of this iconic species, as well as other wildlife, hinges on our ability to permanently connect and protect the lands and waters within the Florida Wildlife Corridor that support them. Evidence of a new generation of the Florida panther north of the Caloosahatchee River demonstrates that the cooperative efforts of conservation agencies and private landowners to protect working landscapes is an effective model that should be expanded throughout the state. Immediate and adequate funding for programs that protect valuable natural and agricultural lands will benefit both wildlife and our growing population.
The Florida panther is a bellwether species and protection of its habitat means that thousands of other species have adequate resources to survive and thrive. In a state that is growing at the rate of 1,000 people a day, frankly it is a success to maintain a wildlife species, let alone see its expansion. This expansion demonstrates that there are ways to support the environment, economy, and our quality of life. This can only happen through smart and strategic planning that informs future development.
The Florida Legislature is poised to make significant decisions about the future of land protection in our state. The Florida Wildlife Corridor organization recommends adopting comprehensive policies that adequately fund land and water conservation priorities. Without urgent investment in their protection, we stand to lose 5 million acres of valuable natural and agricultural lands by 2070. Conservation easements through Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program protect these resources with minimal cost to taxpayers.
This week I am in Tallahassee, talking with our Legislature about the opportunity we still have to connect and protect wild places. I hope that you will contact your elected officials and share your support so that we can celebrate more successes like this in our beautiful state!
Learn more at floridawildlifecorridor.org.