——–Open Letter to FWC———
The ongoing concerns about bear habitat have left Floridians wondering why so many conversions would be necessary and
whether they, indeed, provide any benefit. After speaking with several ecologists from U.S. Forestry, as well as researchers on Longleaf Pine throughout the southeastern United States, we were able to find an unusual link that connects our bears with Florida’s water issue.
Imagine Our Florida, Inc. has submitted the following letter to FWC, expressing our concerns for the bears and explaining why it’s important to understand how these projects are affecting their movements and population. Reduction in food can result in reduced fecundity due to embryonic diapause. Although these longleaf projects will eventually be connected by various types of corridors, they will not be covering all bear habitat. In fact, these corridors, while important for establishing genetic diversity for many animals within longleaf habitat, could create a bit of a challenge for the Florida black bear.
December 14, 2016
Director Nick Wiley
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
620 South Meridian Street
Tallahassee, Fl 32399-16008
Thank you so much for your time and effort in organizing Bear Wise meetings. Given the large number of people attending and the wide range of purposes, we believe your efforts are best served with those in attendance.
In the meantime, Imagine Our Florida, Inc. has been in contact with U.S. Forestry regarding the Longleaf Pine projects. We have learned the root systems of prior Timber Pines in these areas resulted in a great deal of erosion due to uprooting. The sites selected for Longleaf Pine have been done so in a way that facilitates efficient watersheds. The deep tap root acts as an anchor to prevent uprooting while the smaller roots fan out close to the surface. The silviculture also has varying levels of root systems to intake nutrients at many levels and reduce eutrophication in nearby rivers, lakes, and streams. Nutrients are almost instantly absorbed which leaves behind very poor quality soil which is replenished with fire.
While we certainly see the benefits in these areas There is a great concern regarding bear habitat. These longleaf areas are not appealing to the bears and we have yet to observe any indication that they utilize these areas. U.S. Forestry has informed us they do not plan to cover the entire area but will be placing various corridors to connect these longleaf locations. This brings up another concern. Will the establishment of the corridors create further complications with bear habitat? This is a question that will only be answered in time.
Imagine Our Florida Inc. urges Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to continue researching bear movements during these periods of habitat modification. This will not only help to ensure the long term safety and viability for the Florida Black Bear, but will also provide more scientific insight into bear behavior. To discourage bears from seeking food in human neighborhoods, we call upon you to research and recommend optimal burning times to ensure bears have an abundant annual food source which includes saw palmettos berries. For the health, safety and welfare of nearby homeowners when dealing with displaced wildlife during new development, we propose that FWC issue an opinion to the governing bodies. This opinion should include how to best proceed with development to direct bears and other wildlife away from neighborhoods. We further encourage FWC to recognize the economic benefits of the bear from a tourism perspective. With Florida’s deteriorating waterways, State and National Parks may be the better options. Unfortunately, many hikers, photographers, kayakers, and campers are limited in these areas due to hunting seasons. The Great Smokey Mountains average over 9 million visitors each year. One of the greatest draws for the public is the American Black Bear. When incidents happen, such as the recent wildfires, tourists look to other areas in search of beloved wildlife. Florida should be one of those places.
Imagine Our Florida Inc.
Board of Directors
Aymee C. Laurain