Connectivity: it can be life or death for the endangered Florida panther.
There are two important major corridors used by wildlife, especially large mammals such as the Florida panther. The proposed Bellmar development threatens to encroach on and significantly reduce the viability of one of these corridors – the Camp Keais Strand.
Bellmar would add 5,000 new residents only about one mile away from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, threatening not only our wildlife, but also our public lands.
The project would destroy more than 1,700 acres of Primary Zone panther habitat –the most valuable to the future of the species- and 132 acres of wetlands.
Compounding habitat and corridor impacts is the threat of panther-vehicle collisions, a major source of mortality for this species. Development on the Bellmar site will add over 27,000 vehicle trips per day onto already-deadly roadways.
Loss of these core habitats, fragmentation of an essential corridor, more cars on the road, and impacts to the nearby wildlife refuge will jeopardize the Florida panther’s future.
Another listed species in the cross-hairs is the crested caracara because there is a nest in the middle of the site. The applicant could protect the most sensitive area for this listed species by eliminating a mere 50 acres from their massive project, but thus far has not done so.
The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge requires use of controlled burns to manage their lands for the benefit of deer, panthers, and the dozens of other protected species that reside there. The Refuge managers have expressed concerns that management of the preserve, hydrologic restoration, and important listed species habitats will be at risk if the Bellmar development is approved as proposed.
“The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service has concerns about the proximity of these developments to the FPNWR…. This encroachment toward conservation lands can complicate the appropriate management of the FPNWR.”– Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge manager
In December 2020, the state of Florida assumed federal Clean Water Act permitting, an action that the Conservancy is challenging in court. In the interim, major projects like Bellmar -that will devastate the panther and other listed species- may be decided and permitted without the full process of the Endangered Species Act.
Take action now.
Click here to tell officials you oppose the Bellmar development, permit application #396364-001. Ask them to deny the request for a Section 404 permit because it will have unacceptable impacts on endangered and threatened species, wetlands, public lands, and other natural resources.