PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A rare Panama City species could soon be federally protected.
Panama City’s crayfish population has slowly declined in recent years, as biologists say development has destroyed their habitats.
Crayfish are currently found in ditches in Panama City and Lynn Haven. They are unique specifically to Bay County.
Federal Biologists are recommending the crayfish be upgraded to a threatened species.
“The fear from the federal government is that if it is not protected we could lose it because it’s only in one small area. It’s not like other species that may be endangered that are spread out in other places, like across states,” Keith Bryant, Bay County Chief Infrastructure Officer, said.
The Bay County Chamber of Commerce opposes the listing, saying the regulations would have a negative impact and cause “an unreasonable and unjustifiable strain” to the local economy.
“Anytime you have an endangered species within an area, and you’re going to do development, there’s a cost for that. And there’s the time associated with getting the permits,” Bryant said.
There is a way to avoid placing the crayfish on that list.
“If we can acquire an additional 2,000 acres of property within the habitat, then the species will not list,” Bryant said.
Bay County leaders have been working for years to acquire the funds needed to purchase this land off Highway 231.
“The property is available within this area. There are several property owners that are willing to work with us to put that property under conservation,” Bryant said.
The 2,000 acres would cost approximately $10 million, and would also be used as a park for outdoor activities.
The federal service has said that their final decisions are largely made based on public comments.
Comments on this matter will be accepted until June 14. You can comment your opinion on the proposed listing by pressing the blue comment button.
A virtual public information meeting followed by a public hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 4. The public information meeting will take place from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. CST followed by the public hearing from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. CST.
Registration is required to join the Zoom meeting. If you would like to join the meeting, you can register here.