September 1, 2010
Contact: Patricia Behnke, 850-251-2130
"This is a momentous day," said Dr. Elsa Haubold, leader of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) imperiled species listing team, as she began her presentation at the meeting on Wednesday.
Chairman Rodney Barreto praised the collaborative teamwork, and said Sam Hamilton, former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who died in April 2010, would be very pleased on this passage of the new rules.
"Sam Hamilton left us too soon, but he would be proud today," Barreto said. "I want it to go on record that this rule will forever be known as the Sam Hamilton Listed Species Rule."
After Haubold's presentation, the Commission approved new rules for managing threatened species, which begins a new era for conserving fish and wildlife in Florida. The rules describe a system whose goals are to conserve threatened species and to ensure no fish or wildlife goes extinct in Florida because of human action or inaction.
"I've been here since the last go-round with our listing process," said Commissioner Kathy Barco. "And believe me, if you'd told me we could get to this point after it being so contentious three years ago, I never would have believed you. I am very happy today."
David Hankla, field supervisor of the USFWS's North Florida field office, spoke before the final, unanimous vote was taken. He told Commissioners he wanted to recognize the outstanding partnerships between the federal government and the state to create rules that could become a "national standard."
"Let there be no doubt as to the FWC's intent," said Commissioner Brian Yablonski. "These rules are here to protect and conserve species, period. Now the time has come to put all the hard work to the test."
The FWC began the revision because of confusion and controversy over how imperiled species were listed and what they were called. After more than two and a half years of meetings with the public and stakeholders, Florida now has a system that will focus attention on what is needed to conserve threatened and endangered species, rather than on what the species are called.
The new system not only comprises a list that designates Florida's threatened species, but it provides a holistic management system that also includes conservation actions and goals, the public, research, policy, incentives and rules, enforcement and other components necessary to conserve Florida's wildlife.
Under the new system, all state-listed species will be in a single listing category called "threatened." Federally listed species will be listed as Florida federally designated endangered and threatened species. This fall, FWC biologists, partnering with independent biologists, will conduct scientific reviews of all species currently on Florida's threatened and species of special concern lists. Some of these species have never received reviews. Based on the biological review groups' findings, staff will make recommendations to the Commission about whether species should be listed as state threatened in the future.
The next step, beginning in spring 2011, will involve a public process to create management plans that contain strategies to ensure the status of threatened species in Florida improves. Plans also will be created for species being removed from the list to identify actions needed to prevent declines in the species and the need to relist. Throughout the management plan process, the FWC will incorporate public input about needs and concerns related to the proposed species' management.
"This has been a rewarding challenge," Haubold said. "We've set a firm foundation and met the objectives the Commission gave us. Now the real work begins."
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