A new Collier County development location is right in Florida panther territory

A new community development is nearing approval but its location is in the heart of Florida Panther territory. There are fewer than 130 panthers left in the wild, but leaders recommend going forward with the project.

Becca Bryan is with the Friends of Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. “Panthers are already in their backyard and now you’re going to have three more villages,” Bryan said.

She is not sure that building more homes here is a good idea. “Any more land development and use hurts panthers,” Bryan said.

The decision to approve another controversial rural village was made during a planning Collier County commission meeting. This move not everyone is fighting with.

“I would say we are against it because it does reduce a great amount of panther habitat it creates so many more roads and possibilities of panthers dying by vehicle,” said Bryan.

Other groups say this is the best place to build.

Meredith Budd is with the Florida Wildlife Federation. “It is proposed to be on completely clear farm fields,” Budd said.

Longwater is one of three villages that Collier County Enterprises is currently working on. It will be 1,000 acres built on what is known as the Rural Lands Stewardship area. This land is considered to be less environmentally sensitive to panthers.

“The program was developed with the panther in mind to allow for habitat connectivity,” said Budd.

The Florida Wildlife Federation and Audubon feel this project will actually help panthers by saving more land.

“In exchange for developing the 1k acres, the developer is preserving 4800 acres of land,” Budd said.

Brad Cornell with Audubon. “That is a terrific outcome for panthers and for Woodstock and for wetlands, and to us, that is the headline of the whole thing,” Cornell said.

Developers have also agreed to implement bear-proof trashcans in these new communities. They will give $3 million for wildlife crossing to be built.

The Longwater Village plans to go before Collier County Commissioners next month.

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Drew Hill
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