“I wanted to thank FWC for backing our request to have the Florida Black Bear incorporated into the Forest Plan Amendment to reassign management areas on the Ocala National Forest (amendment 12.) This amendment focuses on management of 50,000 acres of bear habitat within the Ocala National Forest.
According to information from this report of the estimated 1,084-1,564 black bears in the Ocala and St. John’s population there are approximately 310-400 bears within the Ocala National Forest. Many are females of which future bear populations rely on.
The biological assessment for this project identified the following risks for the bears.
“Pre-burn roller-chopping and maintenance burning without prior roller-chopping occurring during the denning months (January 1 to April 15) would cause denning females within these stands to flee and likely abandon cubs.”
“Abandoned cubs could in turn be killed by chopping or burning activities.”
The assessment also states that while xeric oak scrub would in the long-term produce a better harvest yield, the landscape would decrease available denning habitat.
Both scrub oaks and palmetto would not produce a sufficient mast for 2-7 years after fire or mechanical vegetation removal.
We hope the commission will recognize that while these are necessary projects that would benefit many species long term, the short term effects could have a negative effect on the currently black bear populations and similar projects over the past few years, which also provide benefits to other species as well as important benefits to correct water flow from years of soil and landscape damage, many have already impacted the bear population and could have interfered with population estimates. I hope the commission will recognize the need to further monitor the bear populations and make every attempt to withhold from any population reduction. Thank you.”