Florida Wildlife Commission Offers BEAR Minimum
Yesterday in Fort Lauderdale, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) proved what we have long suspected – It is a runaway agency with no regard for public input, public opinion and little regard for the wildlife it’s name implies it is pledged to conserve.
During yesterday’s hearing the ratio of those who oppose the hunt to those who support it was at least five to one. Which is ironic, considering the fact that nearly 1,800 hunting permits have been sold to kill 320 bears, also a ratio of 5:1.
It’s bad enough FWC voted to approve the hunt in the first place, but the rules associated with it are largely ambiguous, ill-advised and not based on sound science. This was my message to the commissioners, which you can see below or by clicking here. Prior to my statement, a newly appointed FWC Chairman explained that he decries federal intervention and lawsuits that distract FWC from “protecting and preserving the breathtaking and unique environment Florida has to offer.”
He was no doubt was referring to the lawsuit that members like you have helped support – and I reminded him that when states are unable to address major issues they invite federal intervention and lawsuits. This is true for civil rights, climate change and certainly for Florida’s Black Bear.
I also asked the Commissioners how they’d stop the hunt if hundreds more bears than they expect are killed within the first few days of the season; Or how they will even account for the number of bears killed when they don’t know how many bears there are in Florida. I got no answers. I asked how they will know if a hunter illegally kills a bear in the presence of cubs, or what they will do about it … I got crickets. And then I directly asked FWC Vice Chairwoman Priddy, who purchased a permit after voting to approve the hunt, if she owns a hunting-ranch in legal bear hunting area. If so, she could profit off of the hunt by charging admission to hunters who want to kill bears on her property. And when I got no answer from her (other than a VERY stern look) I asked if this represents a conflict of interest.
I didn’t expect Priddy, or any of the Commissioners to answer my questions. And that’s why we’re helping our friends at Speak Up Wekiva bring a lawsuit not just to save the bears, but to remind FWC that it was created by the people of Florida, for the wildlife and conservation of Florida. And the good news is people in Florida are showing their support too. One new friend pledged in her excellent testimony, “I support the lawsuit and I have A LOT of money to help support it.”
The most ironic moment of the hearing came when FWC Biologist Dr. Eason presented a report on how to reduce bear/human incidents by using bear proof trash containers. In one area of the state, which previously had one of the highest rates of bear complaints, incidents dropped by 95 percent once the containers were distributed. FWC vindicated what we have been saying all along: Non Lethal Approaches Are The Best Way to Protect Bears and Humans Alike.
Despite all the evidence and public testimony, in the end Priddy lead a vote to defeat modest improvements to the bear hunt by a vote of three to two. But I still left yesterday’s hearing with hope, because people across the state are stepping up, speaking out and digging deep to get justice for Florida’s Black Bear. It’s going to be a long, drawn out process – but with your continued support we can and will keep the bears alive.