Panthers vs. ORVs, and coral critical habitat
From the Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008 Palm Beach Post...Panther Safety at heart of fight over off-road vehicles.
"Off-road vehicles were prohibited in 2000 in much of the region north of Interstate 75, known as Alligator Alley. But preserve Superintendent Karen Gustin decided to reopen the Bear Island area to vehicle use a year ago after a heavy lobbying effort by off-roaders..." but environmentalists "allege that vehicle access to the sensitive area constitutes federal neglect of the National Park Service's obligation to protect the highly endangered panthers."
Florida Panther photo by Ralph Arwood available atBig Cypress National Preserve
COMMENTARY: The struggle between natural resource management and recreational use, especially in the context of off-road vehicle use, is a well trod path in environmental litigation. See Natural Trails and Waters Coalition page. But while it is indisputable that ORV's cause some degree of habitat impact, see National Park Service article on human/panther interactions, another question needs to be considered: in the absence of the use of at least portions of that habitat, would the motivation exist to preserve the rest of the habitat?
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In other South Florida news, NOAA has announced its plans to designate critical habitat for threatened Elkhorn and Staghorn corals. See NOAA press release. The proposed rule and related fact sheets are also available online.
COMMENTARY: The listing and protection of coral may also have significant benefits for the fish that depend upon them. However, as ENN reported today, the well-known Butterfly fish 'may face extinction' because it is an "obligate specialist" with a very strong dietary preference for one sort of food -- namely, Acropora hyacinthus. Here, NOAA seeks to protect only the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), and staghorn coral (A. cervicornis).