Friday, November 17, 2006

Major project could devastate Florida panther population

NBC2 News
Last updated on: 11/16/2006 11:29:15 PM

COLLIER COUNTY: There are new concerns over the largest development ever proposed in Collier County - Big Cypress. Environmentalists say the 22,000 acre project could be devastating to the panther population and showed their research to NBC2.

There are fewer than a hundred Florida panthers left and many call Collier County home.

"There's a lot of panthers that live in this area," said Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Hecker spent the past two months putting together a map that tracks where panthers have been spotted.

Hecker counts more than 100 on the land for Big Cypress Stewardship District, a community that's slated to be built over 25 years, with 25,000 homes.

"This would be two villages here nestled in the middle of the core habitat, it just doesn't make any sense," said Hecker.

Environmentalists say building Big Cypress would be devastating to panthers.

"This is the core habitat for one of the most endangered animals on the planet- the Florida panther. If they can't draw the line, we can't draw it anywhere," said Hecker.

Hecker says building big cypress could provoke panther attacks and car accidents.

We took these concerns to the CEO of Collier Enterprises, the developer of Big Cypress.

"We're going to take a hard look at all aspects of the environment and the Florida panther is a major aspect we have to consider," said Tom Flood.

Flood says Big Cypress is only in the planning stages and they plan to work with environmental agencies like the conservancy.

"We're very interested in the environment. It's a great attribute of the project. We take it very seriously," said Flood.

The Conservancy will present their panther map at a meeting with Florida Fish and Wildlife.

The Big Cypress district probably won't go before the Collier County Commissioners for approval for another four years.

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