Judge rules against mining in Florida panther habitat

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2004:

FORT MYERS–Ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and Army Corps of Engineers improperly issued a finding of “no
jeopardy” to the endangered Florida panther, U.S. District Judge
James Robertson on August 20, 2004 invalidated the federal permits
issued to Florida Rock Industries Inc. to develop a 6,000-acre mine
site in Lee County.
“In isolation, most individual projects would impact only
small portions of potential panther habitat,” Robertson wrote.
“Multiplied by many projects over a long time, the cumulative impact
on the panther might be significant.”
The lawsuit against the mine was filed by the National
Wildlife Federation, the Florida Wildlife Federation, and the
Florida Panther Society.
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel staff writer David Fleshler
reported that the case “received support in May 2004 when Andrew
Eller, a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service, filed a
formal complaint accusing his own agency of knowingly using bad data
on panther habitat, reproduction, and survival to approve eight
construction projects.”

Fleshler reported on July 21 that “Eller, a 17-year veteran
of the wildlife service,” had been told in writing that he “would be
fired in 30 days for repeatedly completing projects late and engaging
in ‘unprofessional’ exchanges with the public.”
Said Eller, “I believe it’s retaliation.”
The Florida Rock Industries permit application was supported
by University of Kentucky biologist and reputed Florida panther
expert Dave Maehr.
“For years Maehr’s research went unquestioned, even though
he represented development interests at the same time he was billing
himself as an unbiased scientist,” summarized Chad Gillis of the
Naples Daily News in December 2003.
A peer review of Maehr’s work commissioned by the Florida
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fish and Wildlife
Service recently found that “some of Maehr’s science and panther
models are so faulty that government agencies using his work should
stop immediately,” Gillis wrote.

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