Feds would pay Fla. landowners for panther habitat

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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.

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Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.

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