The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved the listing recommendations for 61 species on Wednesday, June 8, in St. Augustine. When Dr. Elsa Haubold, the FWC’s leader of the Threatened Species Management System, presented the recommendations, it marked the culmination of a journey that began back in 2007 when the Commission directed staff to revise the former imperiled species system.
The Commission approved the new Threatened Species Management System in September 2010. Staff immediately went to work and conducted biological status reviews for 61 species grandfathered on Florida’s threatened and species of special concern lists that had not undergone a review in the past decade. Once the biological status reviews (BSRs) were completed, staff wrote recommendations on which of these species should remain listed, and included these recommendations in the final BSR reports.
“This is a time for celebration,” said Commissioner Rodney Barreto. “We all did a great job, from volunteers to staff, and we’re going to be able to take several species off the list.”
The science-based status reviews were conducted by biological review groups composed of experts from around Florida and the country and led by an FWC staff expert. The groups evaluated the species against Florida’s measureable, objective listing criteria. Their findings and a staff listing recommendation were peer-reviewed by experts from around the world. Based on the biological review group findings, peer reviewers’ comments and other considerations, staff made the recommendations about whether each species should continue to be listed.
“The whole process represents the most comprehensive assessment ever of Florida’s threatened wildlife,” Haubold said. “The reviews provide us – and the public – with information necessary to help us draft management plans to conserve and prevent extinction of Florida’s wildlife.”
Haubold said staff carefully examined the findings and peer review from the external experts and then decided to recommend that 40 of the 61 species be listed as threatened. Five species are being recommended to temporarily remain as species of special concern because there wasn’t enough information to adequately review their status.
Sixteen species are being recommended for delisting, which means that the scientific process used did not indicate the species were at high risk of extinction.
“A change in status of the species will not occur until we bring back each of the management plans for approval,” Haubold told the Commission. “Specifically, species will not be removed from the list, or in some cases, moved from species of special concern to threatened, until management plans are created with stakeholder and public input. Then you will be asked to approve the plans and approve the change in listing status.”
The FWC is already at work on plans for these species, based on threats and needs identified in the biological status reports, peer reviews and input received from the public. The management-planning process will include significant participation from stakeholders and the public. It could take several years to complete this process.
“We are relying on the biologists who are experts on the species,” said Commissioner Brian Yablonski. “These management plans will have the force of law. We celebrated when we removed the bald eagle from the list several years ago and now the bald eagle’s management plan provides strong conservation measures.”
Patricia Zick, 850-590-1345