Florida Land Use: Florida Panther Sighting Exemplifies Clash Between Real Estate Development and Environmental Conservation
This week in the political blog Daily Kos, an entry from their diarist (to some, contributing blogger) GulfGal98 described her trip from her Tallahassee home down to visit family in South Florida. GulfGal98 took what she describes as her "alternative route," taking US 27 as far as Ocala, where she flips over to I-75 to the Florida Turnpike until she hits US 27 again, and she stays on that roadway until she's reached her destination.
We Floridians know these roads, and we know the land development she describes along the way. Central Florida has replaced the citrus groves in the Minneola region with neighborhoods and shops and schools. Families grow children where farmers once grew oranges.
Times change. Land use changes, too.
The Daily Kos article describes a large wild cat running across a multi-lane highway - five feet long, apparently a Florida Panther. Dangerous and rare. Beautiful.
Florida Panthers are an endangered species, and the writer called to report her sighting to Florida Wildlife Alert ((888) 404 3922). To see a Florida Panther in Polk County was unusual, she was told, and someone would be investigating the incident.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has a webpage dedicated to the Florida Panther (visit it here) and the Commission currently estimates there are between 100 and 160 Florida Panthers roaming free in the state. They're carnivores (meat-eaters) according to the site, strategically distancing themselves from each other so each panther has its own range within which to hunt for food.
Which means Panthers need a lot of land: a male panther is reported to need a hunting range of 200 square miles (520 square kilometers).
Multiply 200 square miles by 150 panthers, and you can estimate that these wild cats need 30,000 square miles of open range within which to hunt for their food and raise their babies. It's not easy to find that amount of land in this country that's wild and free - unless its legally protected - and here in Florida, this explains why panther populations aren't in the numbers that they used to be, and why a young male apparently ran across a multilane highway.
The Florida Panther Siting Exemplifies the Clash Between Land Development and Environmental Conservation
The Daily Kos article gives a great example of the constant clash that land use specialists and real estate developments must face with environmentalists, conservation groups, naturalists, and others. It is not that real estate professionals are cold, cruel heartless folk who hate nature and loathe the wild.
Developers marvel at the beauties of beings like panthers, too.
However, as the panther's hunting range exemplies, the needs of nature to keep things wild and the demands of humans to have safe communities within which to live and raise their families collide. They always have and they always will.