In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that it is giving up its watchdog role over Florida's endangered species in order to "streamline" the permitting process for development projects that may hurt rare plants and animals.
This means that the continued existence of several threatened species such as the Florida Panther are now in the hands of the State of Florida; an entity which in the past has more often sided with developers than wildlife.
Because of USFWS' action, Florida is now expected to start fast-tracking development projects—such as fracking for oil in the Big Cyprus region—which will eliminate even more of Florida's few remaining wild places.
What might be even worse than the threat to the Florida Panther is the precedent this action sets for all of America's wildlife. Usually the reason that the Federal Government has to step in and place a species under its protection is because an individual state's government has failed in its responsibilities to the public trust.
USFWS' decision to hand over its oversight role in Florida may just be the first step in a nationwide diminishing of the Federal Endangered Species Act.