New National Wildlife refuge declared in Florida11/09/2011 17:46:56 September 2011. As part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has formally proposed the establishment of a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area in the Kissimmee River Valley, south of Orlando, Florida, to preserve one of the last remaining grassland and longleaf pine savanna landscapes in eastern North America.
Two-thirds of the proposed Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, or up to 100,000 acres, would be protected through conservation easements purchased from willing sellers. 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.
The Service would also purchase up to 50,000 acres outright from willing sellers to create the proposed national wildlife refuge where visitors could hunt, fish and view wildlife. The Service has identified six areas where these refuge lands could potentially be purchased. In some cases, the refuge acquisitions would augment existing conservation lands, such as state parks and wildlife management areas.
Building on the conservation work of private landowners, state and federal conservation agencies, conservation groups, and the public, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's proposal is a strong example of how conservation partners are working to preserve the area's rich ranching heritage and way of life, while protecting the headwaters of the Everglades in the Kissimmee River Basin and connecting valuable habitats benefiting the area's rich fish and wildlife resources.
"We established the America's Great Outdoors initiative to help support the efforts of local communities, private landowners and other key stakeholders to protect working lands and signature landscapes like the northern Everglades," Secretary Salazar said.
"This initiative honors the stewardship of generations of Florida cattle ranchers and other landowners who understood that we all have a stake in preserving the health of our land, water, and wildlife. This proposal, which will continue to be shaped by the local communities and landowners, will help protect both the ranching traditions in the area and the wildlife that call this area home.
The establishment of this refuge promotes one of our key Everglades restoration goals, which is to restore habitat and protect species."
This announcement builds on several other key conservation priorities championed by Secretary Salazar as part of the America's Great Outdoor initiative, and developed with the input of private landowners, conservation stakeholders, and state, local and tribal elected officials, including: