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Environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging plans to widen roadways in primary habitat for the endangered Florida panther, the official state animal.
The lawsuit is over planned road work on State Roads 29 and 82 in southwest Florida.
It points out road collisions represent a primary threat for the panther. From 2016 to 2018 collisions accounted for more than 80 percent of recorded deaths.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a biological opinion stating the road work was unlikely to hurt the species, but the lawsuit counters the opinion is flawed.
Earthjustice filed the lawsuit in federal court in Fort Myers on behalf of the Sierra Club and Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida.
The lawsuit names as defendants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Transportation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife say the agencies do not comment on pending litigation. A spokesman for the Department of Transportation responded after this story aired, saying the department followed all laws and worked under the authority of federal partners.