Proposed Establishment of Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area (formerly called Southwest Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Area)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public review and comment on a draft proposal establishing the Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area in southwest Florida. The proposed Conservation Area abuts the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge & Conservation Area and spans 12 counties west of Lake Okeechobee from Lakeland to Naples, including the watersheds of the Peace River, Myakka River, Fisheating Creek and Caloosahatchee River. The 30-day review and comment period will begin September 26, 2023 and will include forthcoming public meetings where the Service will present and seek input on the proposed .
The proposal is informed by extensive public engagement that included more than 30 informational discussions with representatives of over 70 local, State, Federal, Tribal, non-governmental agencies and private landowners; 7 public scoping meetings; a 35-day public scoping period; and the consideration of approximately 2,600 public comments, which were widely supportive. The resulting draft Land Protection Plan Environmental Assessment, and Conceptual Management Plan identify the vision, goals, objectives, acquisition boundary, and conceptual management for the proposed Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area. The Conservation Area, if approved, would weave together public and private land protection opportunities similar to the partnership approach implemented at the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area over a decade ago.
The proposal identifies a 4-million-acre Conservation Area in which the Service would pursue less-than-fee-title ( ) or fee-title acquisitions from willing sellers only. Conservation easements would provide landowners the opportunity to maintain working lands in their current configuration with no further subdivision or development. The Service could acquire up to 10% of the Conservation Area, or 400,000 acres, in fee-title acquisitions where wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretation, and opportunities for cultural, traditional, and medicinal uses would be available.
The proposed Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area would protect species and improve their resiliency in the face of and extreme development pressures. Protection and management actions would also support Florida’s family farms and ranches, improve water quality, quantity, and water storage within the Greater Everglades and watersheds entering Charlotte Harbor.
This area is home to many rare and endemic plants and animals, including over 70 federally or state-listed threatened and endangered species and iconic species like the Florida panther, Florida scrub jay, Audubon’s crested caracara, Everglade snail kite, and sand skink. The region is an ecologically diverse combination of wet prairie and freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, dry prairie and pine flatwoods, scrub/shrub, agricultural lands, and pastures. While some areas are conserved by state and national parks including wildlife management areas and Tribal lands, crucial wildlife corridors to connect these special places currently lack protection. A protected wildlife corridor from southwest Florida into the state’s northern stretches would allow Florida panthers and black bears, Everglade snail kites and other animals and plants to migrate away from increasingly impacted habitats.
Facts about the project: Fact sheet
Frequently Asked Questions: FAQs
Study Area for Consideration: Map
Do you want to receive updates on the planning process? Mailing List Request
Are you interested in potentially selling property (willing landowner) to the Service for this project (through fee-title or less-than-fee-title)? Landowner Form
PUBLIC REVIEW AND COMMENT PERIOD
We will be conducting a public review and comment period beginning September 26, 2023. Deadline for comments is November 1, 2023.
HOW TO ATTEND A MEETING
VIRTUAL PUBLIC MEETINGS:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has scheduled 2 virtual public meetings on October 20, 2023 (4:00PM-6:00PM), and October 23, 2023 (4:00PM-6:00PM), Eastern Time (ET). The virtual public meetings are intended to give the public an opportunity to learn more about the proposed Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area.
The meetings will be held via the Zoom online platform so that participants can attend remotely. During the virtual public meetings, attendees can join by computer or phone to learn about the proposed Conservation Area. The virtual public meeting will start with a presentation by USFWS staff followed by an opportunity for attendees to provide public comment. In addition, public comments can be submitted anytime during the comment period to firstname.lastname@example.org. The comment period ends November 1, 2023.
We recommend that members of the public log into the Zoom meeting platform 5 minutes prior to the beginning of the presentation to ensure that they can connect. If using the phone-only option, participants will be able to listen to the virtual public meeting, but they will not view the presentation. Instructions will be given regarding how participants will be able to provide their questions during the meeting.
*For security purposes, registration is required. To listen and view the meeting via Zoom, listen to the meeting by telephone, or provide questions during the meeting by Zoom or telephone, you must register.
*Interested members of the public not familiar with the Zoom platform should view the Zoom video tutorials (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206618765-Zoom-video-tutorials) prior to the public meeting.
*If you have technical difficulties registering for the meeting or joining the meeting on October 20 or October 23, please email email@example.com.
HOW TO ATTEND A VIRTUAL MEETING:
For Participants Joining by Zoom Web Platform or Zoom App:
- Please pre-register using the links provided below. If you would like to attend both meetings, you must register for both.
10/20/23 Everglades to Gulf Virtual Public Meeting
10/23/23 Everglades to Gulf Virtual Public Meeting
2. After registration, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
3. On the day of the meeting, please join using the information contained in your confirmation email.
For Participants Joining by Phone:
1. Register for the meeting (see above). On the day of your meeting, call in using one of the toll-free phone numbers listed below. You will be prompted to enter your Webinar ID. Enter your Webinar ID from your confirmation email and press the # key.
2. You will then be prompted: “Enter your Participant ID followed by #. Otherwise just press #.” Phone-only participants will not receive an individualized Participant ID, so just press the # key.
3. You will then be prompted: “Enter your Password followed by #. Otherwise just press #.” Enter the Passcode from your confirmation email and press the # key.
4. You will be directly joined to the meeting. If the meeting has not started, you will be on hold until the meeting begins.
Call-in Numbers(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
- US: +1 720 707 2699 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 646 558 8656 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799
- International numbers available: Zoom International Dial-in Numbers - Zoom
IN-PERSON PUBLIC MEETINGS:
In-Person Public Meetings are set: 6:30pm-8:30pm ET
Oct 25: Wauchula Civic Center 507 Civic Center Dr, Wauchula, FL 33873
Oct 26: Immokalee High School 701 Immokalee Dr, Immokalee, FL 34142
CAN'T MAKE A MEETING?
You can watch the public presentation below, or on our YouTube channel.
HOW TO SUBMIT COMMENTS
Comments can be submitted in multiple ways:
Mailing Address: NWRS E2G CA, P.O. Box 700188, Wabasso, FL 32970
Or on comment cards provided at public meetings
The USFWS is committed to providing access to the public meeting for all participants. Closed captioning will be available during the virtual public meetings. Further, a full audio and video recording and transcript of the virtual public meeting will be posted online at https://www.fws.gov/project/everglades-gulf-conservation-area after the meeting. Participants will also have access to live audio during the virtual public meeting via their telephone or computer speakers.
Persons with disabilities requiring reasonable accommodations to participate in the meeting should contact Laura_housh@fws.gov at least 5 business days prior to the date of the meeting to help ensure availability. An accessible version of the USFWS’s public meeting presentation will also be posted online at https://www.fws.gov/project/everglades-gulf-conservation-area prior to the meeting.