Upon further review, court upholds FWS decision not to list the Florida black bear.
Defenders of Wildlife v. Kempthorne, 2008 WL 590865 (D.D.C., Mar. 5, 2008)
BACKGROUND: In 1998, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found that the Florida black bear did not warrant ESA listing. 63 Fed. Reg. 67613 (Dec. 8, 1998). However, a 2001 court decision remanded the finding to the FWS to clarify the analysis of whether existing regulatory mechanisms were adequate. FWS issued a new decision in 2004. 69 Fed. Reg. 2100 (Jan. 14, 2004)
SUMMARY: Rejecting all the alternative procedural arguments of the Plaintiffs, the Court held that FWS properly interpreted the 2001 remand, and properly limited its analysis to the regulatory mechanisms that were in place in 1998. The court also held that FWS properly considered the best available data that was available in 1998, because FWS had not been ordered to begin an entirely new review of the need to list the Florida black bear. On the merits, the court also held that FWS’s analysis was not arbitrary or capricious, and upheld the FWS conclusions that the amount of habitat loss in Florida did not necessitate threatened status for the species because public conservation lands provided the needed habitat for bears to thrive. The Court specifically noted the preservation of and management measures in over 3.7 million acres of State and Federally managed lands in Florida, including: Apalachicola, Ocala, and Osceola National Forests; Big Cypress National Park; Okefenoke and other National Wildlife Refuges; Eglin Air Force; and other state lands owned by Florida. Finally, the Court upheld FWS’s reliance on existing management plans for State of Florida lands as not mere speculation.
Florida's license plates protect black bears, and the Florida FWCpromotes the tags, which fund wildlife preservation.
COMMENTARY: The Court’s analysis, as well as the FWS analysis, also acknowledged Florida state environmental laws regarding "Environmental Resource Permitting" ("ERP") and "Developments of Regional Impact ("DRI") placed some restrictions on developments. While these laws do not stop all habitat loss, they were found to be sufficient regulatory mechanisms and thus precluded the need for listing of the Florida black bear.
P.S. A photo I couldn't resist...
Florida black bear on Eglin AFB, photo Photo by Arlo Kane