The head of the Florida House of Representatives’ Democrats has filed legislation to protect the state’s black bears in the wake of a contentious state hunt.
State Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach submitted the bill (HB 1055) on Tuesday. Pafford leads the chamber’s 39 Democrats.
His bill, the “Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act,” would find that “there has been a lack of interagency coordination to preserve the habitat for the Florida black bear.”
That “lack of coordination has resulted in an increase in human-bear conflicts,” the bill says.
Among other things, the measure would set aside $50 million to “purchase and distribute bear-resistant garbage containers” to homes in or near where bears live.
It would ban permits “to harvest saw palmetto berries” on “state lands identified as including Florida black bear habitat.”
And it would prohibit the ability of logging companies to buy rights to harvest trees on state land where the bears roam.
In October, hunters killed 298 Florida black bears when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission OK’d a bear hunt for the first time in two decades.
More than 3,200 hunters bought permits to hunt, including “Motor City Madman” musician Ted Nugent and state Rep. Frank Artiles.
The hunt ended prematurely, however, when 298 bears were killed in the first two days of the hunt. The quota had been 320 over the course of a week.
Anti-hunt activists included one Florida woman who paid for a small plane trailing a “No Bear Hunt!” banner to buzz the Capitol as Gov. Rick Scott, other elected officials and political candidates were speaking at The Associated Press’ yearly pre-legislative session conference held on the building’s 22nd-story observation deck.