"Beyond a doubt, the greatest threat today to the Florida panther lies in the departments of government collaborating to save it…. Lobbying for enabling legislation, and for the provision of funds, by environmental organizations has been rewarding, but the resulting aid has outrun the institutional capacity to use it effectively."
Ken Alvarez, former member of the Panther Advisory Council, Twilight of the Panther 1993:23
"Poor implementation of the ESA [Endangered Species Act] is itself a major cause of the continuing decline of species, and professionals and organizations are significantly responsible for the quality of implementation."
Tim Clark, Richard Reading, Alice Clarke, Endangered Species Recovery 1994: 4.
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.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service descended from two 19th century government offices: the U.S. Fish Commission and the Office of Economic Ornithology in the Department of Agriculture, which grew to include the study of mammals as well as birds, management of wildlife refuges, and control of predators. In 1940 these agencies were combined and renamed the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for listing species under the Endangered Species Act, providing biological opinions to federal agencies on their activities that may affect listed species, overseeing recovery activities for listed species, providing protection of important habitat, and providing grants to states to assist them in their endangered species conservation efforts. The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
The Department of Game and Fish was established in Florida in 1913 to manage fish and wildlife, primarily for recreational hunting and fishing. The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission was established as a constitutional agency in 1943 -- and became the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 200 -- to manage and regulate fresh water fish and wildlife. Other responsibilities of the commission include establishing wildlife refuges, acquiring land for protection of fish and wildlife, monitoring environmental impacts of land and water uses and cooperating with federal conservation and wildlife agencies.
National Park Service
The National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior, was founded in 1916 to preserve and to protect spectacular landscapes for the enjoyment of the American public. Under the management of the National Park Service are national parks and national preserves. National parks are large natural areas with a wide variety of attributes and may include cultural and historical as well natural assets. Hunting, mining, and extraction of natural resources are not permitted in national parks. National preserves have many of the characteristics of national parks but hunting, trapping, oil and gas exploration, and extraction of natural resources are permitted. Within the panther's range are Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.
Cases in Government Management
Examples of difficulties in managing the protection of endangered species
Northern Spotted Owl
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.
Learn more about and discuss the history and purposes of the agencies responsible for the recovery of the Florida panther.)
Government agencies have different histories and supporting groups that tend to give them different approaches to solutions. Businesses have this too (they call it market strategy) but in the case of agencies working on similar problems presumably together, it's more glaring (viz., we expect businesses to be uncooperative with each other as part of competition). For example, the federal government has programs to discourage smoking yet provides farm subsidies to tobacco growers.
What are the solutions to such problems? Are these problems simply a reflection of a representative democracy where the government agencies mirror the disagreements among the population?
A classic example of two agencies with very different approaches in seemingly similar areas are the Department of Interior's National Park Service and the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. How do they differ in the way they manage public lands? Why? You might want to compare a local national forest to a national park. How does visitor service differ between forests and parks? Also, think about the nature of the interest groups involved with the two departments.