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The Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act

This petition had 6,721 supporters


Peer-reviewed science tells us that the best way to curb human/bear conflicts is to remove the attractants in neighborhoods and restore the natural food supply of bears in the forests where they belong.  The Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act addresses the science-based solutions in a positive, non-lethal way.  This bill will be introduced in the Florida Legislature in 2016.

Please read the bill, see what it will do and sign our petition.

An Act Concerning the restoration of the habitat for the Florida Black Bear.

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

ARTICLE 1.

Section 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act.”

Section 2. Definitions.

For the purposes of this Act, unless the context otherwise requires:

“Agencies” means the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).

“Bear-Resistant Garbage Containers” means receptacles used for storage of garbage on residential properties that have the design and structure to significantly impede access to the contents by black bears.

“Florida Black Bear" means the subspecies Ursus Americanus Floridanus, the largest mammal native to Florida.

“Human-Bear Conflicts” means interactions between humans and bears that lead to negative consequences.

Section 3. Intergovernmental cooperation.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) has jurisdiction over the state’s wildlife and certain areas of habitat, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has jurisdiction over 1.1 million acres of state forests and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has jurisdiction over Florida’s 174 state parks.  Both the state forests and the state parks constitute prime habitat for the Florida Black Bear.   There has been a lack of intergovernmental coordination to preserve the habitat for the Florida Black Bear which has resulted in an increase in Human-Bear Conflicts.  In order to provide for public safety, it is imperative that the Legislature enacts measures to insure the restoration of the Florida Black Bear’s habitat and thereby reduces the number of Human-Bear Conflicts.

Section 4. Powers and duties.

(a)  Except as otherwise provided, each agency having jurisdiction over the habitat of the Florida Black Bear, namely FFWCC, FDACS and FDEP, shall enforce this Act and all rules and orders adopted in accordance with this Act.

(b)  Except as otherwise provided, the Agencies shall have jurisdiction and authority over all persons and property necessary to enforce the provisions of this Act effectively.

(c)  The Agencies may authorize any employee of the Agencies, qualified by training and experience, to perform the powers and duties set forth in this Act.

Section 5. Bear-Resistant Garbage Container Fund.

(a) The Legislature shall create a fund with a minimum amount of $50 million from which county and municipal governments can borrow sufficient money to fund the purchase and distribution of a sufficient number of Bear-Resistant Garbage Containers to supply all residences in areas prone to human-bear conflicts.  The county and municipal governments located in the fourteen of counties in Florida affected by human-bear conflicts that are eligible for this program shall be determined by the panel of experts as defined in Section 9.   A reasonable rate of interest and term of the loans shall be determined by the Legislature so that the net impact on the citizens of Florida will be completely offset over time.

Section 6. Saw Palmetto Berry Harvesting.

(a)  There shall be a permanent ban on the selling of permits to harvest saw palmetto berries on all state lands that are delineated as being Florida Black Bear habitat by the panel of experts as defined in Section 9.  This shall apply to all lands under public ownership and control including state forests, state parks and conservation easements authorized by the State of Florida that are delineated as being Florida Black Bear habitat by the panel of experts as defined in Section 9.

Section 7. Burn Schedule on State Lands.

(a)  Burn schedules for state forests and state parks that are delineated as being Florida Black Bear habitat by the panel of experts as defined in Section 9 shall be adjusted to allow for the regrowth of oak trees, saw palmettos and other berry producing plants that supply the Florida Black Bear with sufficient natural food so that members of the species are not compelled to enter residential areas in search of food.

Section 8. Sale of Timbering Rights on State Lands.

(a) There shall be a permanent ban on the sale of timbering rights to acorn producing oaks in all state forests and state parks that are delineated as being Florida Black Bear habitat by the panel of experts as defined in Section 9.

Section 9. Panel of Experts.

(a)  A panel of five expert biologists and wildlife ecologists shall be appointed by the President of the Senate to oversee the restoration of the habitat for the Florida Black Bear.  This panel shall issue an annual report updating the Legislature on the progress made in regards to the measures enacted under this Act.

 



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