Floridians support endangered species protections

09/18/2013

Floridians support endangered species protections

Floridians support endangered species protections

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sept. 17, 2013 – Floridians want to protect endangered species, even if it means fines for violators or restrictions on personal freedoms, a new University of Florida (UF) Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences survey finds.

In conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, an online survey of 499 Floridians last month found that respondents ranked it relatively low in importance, ranking it 11th out of 15 public issues, and well behind topics such as the economy, health care and food safety.

But respondents solidly supported legal protection for endangered species of all kinds, including fines, restrictions on residential and commercial development, and buying habitat for endangered species to ensure their survival.

Florida is home to 47 endangered animal species, such as the Florida panther and the West Indian manatee, and another 44 plant species, including the Key tree-cactus and pondberry.

“What we found, generally, is that people were most willing to avoid harmful activities such as avoiding buying invasive species or driving slower, than they were to do more active things, like supporting or belonging to an environmental group,” says Tracy Irani, director of the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education, or PIE Center, the research group that led the study.

For instance, 55 percent of survey respondents were “very likely” to avoid harmful activities, such as not releasing pets into the wild or taking care to not degrade endangered species’ habitat; but only 23 percent would be similarly disposed to engage in environmental civic behavior, such as joining a conservation organization.

Other findings

• 66 percent of respondents felt the Endangered Species Act should be strengthened.

• 78 percent agreed or strongly agreed that “the use and development of land should be restricted to protect endangered species.”

• Respondents were more likely to consider plants, fish and mammals worthy of conservation over microorganisms, invertebrates and reptiles.

• Roughly twice as many respondents agreed or strongly agreed that agricultural and industrial chemicals and pollution pose a threat to endangered species compared to those who cited legal fishing or hunting.

• Florida residents considered themselves only slightly or fairly knowledgeable about issues affecting endangered species, but they’re interested: 85 percent said they’re likely or very likely to pay attention to news stories dealing with issues related to endangered species.

“Florida is home to so many unique species of plants and animals, and it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to protect them,” says Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

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