Proposal opens up more Florida Panther land to the public in Collier County

There is a plan that could give people further access to wildlife in Southwest Florida.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to add new trails and allow for fishing and hunting for wild turkeys at Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County.

But this is not a unanimously accepted idea. Some say there is a reason this land has not been touched, and it’s to protect Florida panthers. They think we should let them be.

However, others are excited to hear about an opportunity to connect with wildlife.

More than 26,000 acres of land are preserved saved for Florida panthers, and the refuge wants to open that land up wants to the public.

“I’ve never seen a panther, so it would be great to be in a place like that,” Randi Dey said.

In a proposed plan, the panther refuge would open up to the public, for things like fishing, turkey hunting, camping, and more hiking trails.

“I wish there was something like that right now,” Dey said. I would be on board.

George Smith would like rules and regulations to be enforced.

“With good control, they shouldn’t have any problems with it,” Smith.

The panther refuge knows opening up the sensitive land to the public will cause concerns.

“We are moving into where they reside,” Jodi Gaskill said. “We are taking their homes. They are running, and it could be hazardous on the highway. That’s why they die.”

The refuge closed public comment on the issue this week. It’s currently reviewing those that were submitted and hope to make a decision on the proposal by late summer.

MORE: Proposed Visitor Services Plan including Proposed Hunt and Fish Opportunities

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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