With no fanfare, feds handed endangered species authority to state of Florida; Environmental groups intend to sue
Times staff writer Craig Pittman with a must-read story this morning. An excerpt:
With no public hearings or fanfare, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year handed over to a state agency its authority for clearing the way for development permits that might hurt Florida panthers and other endangered species.
The move to hand that authority to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had strong support from developers and others who seek such permits, according to a former Fish and Wildlife Service official. The lack of fanfare was at the request of state officials who wanted to "lay low" and avoid controversy, according to internal emails.
Florida is now the only state with that authority. "This is the only one that's ever been done," said Dave Hankla, who recently retired as the head of the Jacksonville office of the federal wildlife agency.
But on Thursday a pair of environmental groups notified the federal government that they intend to sue, arguing that handing off that authority violates the Endangered Species Act.