By ERIC STAATS
Posted September 17, 2009 at 10:32 a.m.
NAPLES — Three environmental groups petitioned the Obama administration today to protect habitat in Southwest Florida for the endangered Florida panther.
The petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Council of Civic Associations says the panther needs about 3 million acres to save it from extinction.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida filed a similar petition in January, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to take formal action on it.
A designation of critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act would require not only that new development no jeopardize the continued existence of the panther but also not destroy or adversely effect its habitat.
Scientists say between 100 and 120 panthers are left in the wild, up from fewer than 30 animals. The burgeoning population roams mostly across Southwest Florida.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org