The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to conserve the natural resources and rural way of life in the Kissimmee River Valley. Our partners in this effort include the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, The Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
As part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has accepted a 10-acre donation of land in south-central Florida to officially establish the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area – conserving one of the last remaining grassland and longleaf pine savanna landscapes in eastern North America.
If fully realized, the refuge and conservation area will span 150,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee. Two-thirds of the acreage, or 100,000 acres, will be protected through conservation easements purchased from willing sellers. With easements, private landowners would retain ownership of their land, as well as the right to work the land to raise cattle or crops. The easements would ensure the land could not be developed.
Any landowners interested in the Service's Fee Title or Conservation Easement Acquisition Program may download and submit this Letter of Interest (PDF, 98KB) to Charlie Pelizza, Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge c/o Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, 4055 Wildlife Way, Vero Beach, FL 32963.
Final Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment available.
The proposal is outlined in detail in two documents, the Draft Land Protection Plan and the Draft Environmental Assessment. An Executive Summary of the proposal is also available.
The Service is hosting two public meetings to answer questions and take comments on the proposal. The deadline to submit comments is November 25, 2011.
The public hearings are:
1 - 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 24, 2011 at the South Florida Community College Theatre for the Performing Arts
600 W. College Drive
Avon Park, FL 33825
1 - 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at the Osceola Heritage Park, The Exhibition Building - Hall A
1901 Chief Osceola Trail
Kissimmee, FL 34744.
The schedule is the same for both meetings. From 1 - 2 p.m., there will be an Open House in which the Service will provide specific information and answer questions. The formal Public Hearing will start at 2 p.m., during which speakers will be able to express their views on the proposal.
Anyone who needs reasonable accommodations in order to attend and participate in the public hearings should contact Cheri Ehrhardt at 321/861-2368 or Cheri_Ehrhardt@fws.gov as soon as possible. In order to allow sufficient time to process requests, please contact us for assistance no later than one week before the hearing.
Verbal and written comments may be submitted at the public hearings.
You do not need to attend a public hearing to share your views with us. Written comments may also be submitted by:
Please include your name and address in any comments submitted. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
Comments must be received by November 25, 2011 to be considered in development of a final proposal.
Time permitting, the Service will also consider requests from organizations for informational presentations during the public review and comment period. The Service would be able to share information and details about the proposed refuge and conservation area, but would be unable to accept verbal public comments at these meetings. However, written comments could be submitted to the Service representative. To request an informational presentation about the proposal, please contact Cheri_Ehrhardt@fws.gov or 321/861-2368.