VENUS, Fla. (AP) — Federal wildlife officials want to pay Florida landowners to maintain their property as habitat for endangered panthers.
Under a pilot program announced Thursday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the government would spend $500,000 a year to pay landowners to preserve about 26,000 acres for about 10 years.
Kevin Godsea of the Florida Panther National Wildlife tells the Tampa Bay Times (http://bit.ly/1kvWGaP ) that some states have tried similar programs, but this is the first attempted by the federal government.
State and federal officials have been holding closed-door meetings for months about panther conservation efforts. They say that under the pilot program, landowners would have to follow certain land-management practices and allow annual federal inspections.
Florida panthers once roamed the Southeast, but now they're confined to the state's southern tip.
Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.