FWC sets Nov. 22 workshop to discuss black bear conservation in Panhandle
A draft plan to ensure a sustainable Florida black bear population will be presented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at a Nov. 22 public workshop in Bristol.
Members of the public from throughout the Panhandle are invited to the workshop, which will include a staff presentation on the FWC’s draft bear management plan. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions, speak or complete a brief survey on the plan. The workshop begins at 6 p.m. EST at the Veterans Memorial Civic Center, 10405 N.W. Theo Jacobs Lane.
“We encourage people interested in conserving the Florida black bear to attend this workshop on the draft bear management plan,” said Dave Telesco, the FWC’s bear management program coordinator. “Public involvement is essential to making this plan effective in conserving Florida’s largest land mammal for future generations.”
Seven bear management units (BMUs) – including the West Panhandle BMU, which includes Eglin Air Force Base, and the East Panhandle BMU, which includes Apalachicola National Forest – are proposed in the draft plan. The BMUs will allow the FWC to manage bears guided by local input and specific characteristics of both bear and human populations in those areas.
“Bear Smart Communities” also would be created in areas of high bear activity to involve residents, local governments, businesses and schools in changing people’s behaviors to reduce human-bear conflicts. The U.S. Air Force’s Hurlburt Field in Okaloosa County recently was recognized by the FWC for implementing bear education of residents and using bear-proof garbage cans, which have reduced calls and complaints about bears by 70 percent so far in 2011, compared with 2010.
The draft bear management plan is available at MyFWC.com/Bear, where the public can comment online on the plan through Jan. 10, 2012. The draft plan and a summary of public input will go before the Commission at its February 2012 meeting, but a final decision on the plan will not take place until a later meeting.
The public workshop in Bristol is the first of four that will be held across the state. Others are scheduled for Naples on Nov. 29, DeLand on Dec. 6, and Gainesville on Dec. 13. For more information on the workshops, go to MyFWC.com/Bear.