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Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

~Kahlil Gibran
Written by Marjorie Holt   
Wednesday, September 15 2010
The Sierra Club is concerned about aspects of the Draft Plan that could allow for dwindling populations of the Florida Black Bear and the hunting of this threatened species.  We have provided some talking/writing points and links that will allow you to read more on the Management Plan submit your comments.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has opened up its draft Florida Black Bear Management Plan for public review. Unfortunately, embedded in that plan is the intent to "explore hunting as part of Florida's bear management program".  Making matters worse, an out-of-state hunting group has spearheaded a campaign to urge its members to submit comments in favor of hunting bears in Florida. 
The Florida Black Bear, a unique subspecies of the more common American Black Bear, is listed as THREATENED in Florida. Estimated to number only 3000 individuals, issues affecting  management of the black bear and threats to it's long-term survival in a high-growth state like Florida are very different from circumstances in other parts of the country. Surveys suggest that the majority of Floridians do not support black bear hunting. Don't let a vocal minority from out of state unduly influence FWC. Please voice your opposition to hunting of the Florida Black Bear by going to the following link and submitting comments online:
(Click on "new item" to enter your own comments.)
The entire draft plan can be downloaded from the following link:
The comment period ends on October 1st, so please act now!
Here are some potential talking/writing points:
- The Florida Black bear is a unique subspecies of the American black bear, and is listed as a THREATED species in the state of Florida. Hunting a threatened species is inconsistent with its protection. Once on the brink of demise, bear populations have improved in recent decades in large part because hunting of the species was banned.
- Allowing hunting of the black bear while conditions in Florida affecting bear habitat and survival are far from static is inappropriate. Florida continues to be a major growth state where habitat is increasingly being lost and fragmented by development and roads. So adding hunting to these GROWING set of dangers is unjustified.
- The management plan implies that hunting should be considered because the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is unable to respond to all of the bear complaints that it receives. Many of these complaints are the result of irresponsible people behavior, such as feeding or bears, failure to contain people/pet food and garbage which attracts bears, and of course uncontrolled development occurring in bear habitat. These are all reasons why effective steps are needed to modify human behavior, not reasons to hunt a threatened species.
- The proposed management plan refers to both a "biologically viable" bear population and a "socially-acceptable" bear population. Inherently subjective criteria regarding what is "socially-acceptable" should not outweigh science and the need to protect functional ecosystems and wildlife populations within them that represent natural conditions.
- The management plan proposes seven black bear management areas within Florida so that particular policies and procedures can be established for each. This makes sense, however within each management area, the proposed plan identifies the same "minimally-acceptable" number of bears as 200 individuals, regardless of the size of that management area. This is totally inappropriate considering that some management areas are larger than others. Coupled with this, the plan identifies a minimum area necessary to sustain that minimum population of 200 bear, that in some cases is far less than the current extent of public/private conservation lands. This inappropriately implies or could be misinterpreted to imply that such lands may not be important to protect in the future. The "minimum acceptable" terminology presently used in the plan should be removed or substantially modified to reflect acceptable populations that approximate natural conditions and carrying capacity, which are functions of both quality and size of existing habitat.
- The lack of resources and staff for state conservation agencies is a chronic problem that has led to inadequate management and enforcement of regulations. FWC acknowledges that it does not have adequate resources to respond to current black bear issues. So creating a hunting season on the Florida back bear is inconceivable when the state lacks the many resources it would need to attempt to oversee bear hunts, enforce bag limits on a threatened species, and respond to complaints that would undoubtedly occur as the result.
- FWC and other state conservation agencies have a "hit or miss" track record of reviewing major development projects that threaten critical habitat and ecosystem connectivity. It is inappropriate to consider bear hunting, especially when state conservation agencies lack a solid comprehensive awareness of ongoing development threats and an effective strategy to address them. (The management plan includes a proposed strategy that involves informing the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) of bear habitat and corridors for state and regional planning purposes. This is good but insufficient to address the effect of frequently proposed land use changes, some of which can be very large or impact critical missing links within Florida's complex of public/private conservation lands. More informed engagement on land use issues is needed.)

Last Updated ( Wednesday, September 15 2010 )
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