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South Florida National Wildlife Refuges Closed as Hurricane Wilma Approaches Gulf Coast


October 20, 2005

Jeffrey Fleming, 404-679-7287

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces that 14 national wildlife refuges in south Florida were temporarily closed today as the state braces for the possible strike of Hurricane Wilma, now a dangerous Category 4 storm. Three national wildlife refuges will close on Saturday, October 22, if necessary, and Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge may close on Sunday, October 23. Current projections are that the hurricane will arrive in Florida Sunday, October 23.

All refuges will be re-opened after the danger of the storm has passed, and any resulting damages or impacts that threaten public safety are cleared.

The following refuges closed today or may be closed this week-end until further notice:

  • Egmont Key NWR near St Petersburg;
  • Pinellas NWR near St. Petersburg (already closed to public access);
  • Passage Key NWR in Crystal River (already closed to public access);
  • Pine Island NWR in Pine Island Sound;
  • J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR in Sanibel;
  • Caloosahatchee NWR in Fort Myers;
  • Matlacha Pass NWR in Fort Myers;
  • Florida Panther NWR in Naples;
  • Ten Thousand Islands NWR in Naples;
  • Key West NWR;
  • Great White Heron NWR in Big Pine Key;
  • National Key Deer NWR in Big Pine Key;
  • Crocodile Lake NWR in north Key Largo;
  • Island Bay NWR in Charlotte Harbor;
  • Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR in Boynton Beach;(may close Saturday);
  • Hobe Sound NWR in West Palm Beach (may close Saturday);
  • Archie Carr NWR in Vero Beach (may close Saturday).
  • Pelican Island NWR in Sebastian (may close Sunday);

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices, and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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