U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced plans for both government and private conservation organizations to come together to develop new environmental conservation areas in Florida’s Everglades.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be partnered with state and local agencies as well as private landowners, tribal agencies, and other conservation groups. They will be spearheading a new national wildlife program that will serve as a refuge and conservation of local wildlife. Additionally, this broad program will help to conserve Florida’s ranching heritage, local wildlife, as well as the natural water system including fish life.
Some of the additional partners on this project include the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Division of State Lands, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and others.
“The Everglades rural working ranch landscapes are an important piece of our nation’s history and economy, and this initiative would work to ensure that they remain vital for our future," stated Secretary Salazar in a Department of the Interior press release earlier this month.
Salazar added that the partnerships being formed are intended to protect and improve water quality, restore wetlands, and connect the existing conservation lands and wildlife that are part of the larger restoration work for the Everglades.
Currently, the partnership of conservation organizations is conducting a preliminary study and survey. This study seeks to establish a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area in the Kissimmee River Valley just south of Orlando, Fla. The conservation area would be approximately 150,000 acres in size and would consist of important landscapes both natural and cultural. Fifty thousand acres would still need to be purchased while the other 100,000 acres of land would be kept in private ownerships with cooperative agreements to ensure the land is protected.
As a way of keeping the public involved, Salazar announced that the public will be invited to join in a series of workshops on the plans and proposal, which will be in January and February.
Some of the species that will be protected in this program include the Florida panther, the Florida black bear, the whooping crane, the Everglade snail kite, the eastern indigo, as well as 88 other federal and state listed species. The program also aims to protect and improve water quality as well as linking to around 690,000 additional acres of conservation land giving wildlife nearly a million acres of space to live and be free