Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


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Institutional Constraints

Endangered species recovery is an organizational, social, political, and economic process as well as a biological process. Numerous agencies, groups, and individuals have an interest in the Florida panther and its future.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has lead responsibility for recovery of the Florida panther, and all Federal agencies including FWS are responsible for contributing to panther conservation pursuant to section 7(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has contributed significant research and important conservation and recovery activities toward Florida panther conservation.  

Decisions of other agencies and entities, including the National Park Service, the South Florida and Southwest Florida water management districts, the Central, Southwest, and South Florida regional planning councils, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Department of Transportation, the U.S. Forest Service, the Florida Forest Service, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes, among others, may be critical to the panther's future. Local governments (cities and counties), through land use and zoning decisions, also affect habitat of the panther and many other species.

In an examination of endangered species recovery nationwide, sociologist Ron Westum (1994) argues that existing governmental agencies do not generally function in a way that leads to successful recovery of endangered species. Agencies have distinct histories, are accustomed to functioning independently of each other, and their goals and values may conflict. When they were established, the need for intergovernmental coordination was not recognized to the extent it is today.

Government agencies may be notoriously slow in completing tasks, especially when everything must be reviewed and decisions made through long chains of class project command. Mid-level managers may distort information as it moves up and down long hierarchies between field biologists and top administrators (Clark, Reading, and Clarke 1994; Synder 1994).

Clark, Reading, and Clarke (1994) suggest reorganizing the way the endangered species recovery process occurs in the United States. They suggest establishment of teams of experts (social scientists as well as biologists) who are committed to the goal of species recovery and who are not simply representatives of governmental agencies or special interest groups. Teams must include the principal biologists who have worked with the species. Members need to be free to inquire, to think, and to speak their minds independent of government agencies. They need to be empowered to make decisions and to act quickly. They need leaders who are open to new ideas and who are able to get potential adversaries to "buy in" to species recovery.

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