Public scoping comment deadline extended to March 31, 2011 for the proposed Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now accept public scoping comments through March 31, 2011, on the proposal to create a refuge and conservation area in south-central Florida. The period was extended by one month to give interested individuals and organizations more time to get involved.
“We want to make sure anyone interested has the opportunity to participate in this planning process and contribute their ideas, concerns, and comments,” said Charlie Pelizza, the Service’s lead for the proposal and the Refuge Manager for Pelican Island,Archie Carr, and Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuges in Florida.
The Service has proposed creating a refuge and conservation area north of Lake Okeechobee to preserve ranches and farms, protect water quality and quantity, connect existing conservation land, and safeguard 88 federally and state listed species that include the Florida panther, Florida black bear, and Everglades snail kite.
Under the proposal, the refuge would encompass about 50,000 acres. The Service would seek to purchase conservation easements on an additional 100,000 acres to create a conservation area. Land in the conservation area would remain in private ownership. The Service would not use eminent domain to acquire any land rights for the refuge or conservation area, and would work only with willing sellers.
The exact location for the proposed refuge and conservation area has not yet been determined. The Service will take the public’s comments into consideration as it develops a more specific proposal, which should be ready for public review and comment in June.
Starting January 26, the Service held four public scoping meetings to gather input and answer questions. Attendance at each meeting averaged about 440 people. The Service has also received about 500 written comments. The comments are wide-ranging, expressing both support and opposition to the proposal.
Written comments may be submitted in a variety of ways:
- By mail, to Cheri Ehrhardt, AICP, Natural Resource Planner, Everglades Headwaters Proposal, PO Box 2683, Titusville, FL 32781-2683;
- By e-mail, to EvergladesHeadwatersProposal@fws.gov; or
- By fax, to 321-861-1276.
For additional information, please visit www.fws.gov/southeast/greatereverglades.
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