It’s no small feat to establish a 150,000-acre national wildlife refuge and conservation area. But it’s a whole different level of commitment when it’s backed up with $81 million for purchase of conservation easements.
Yet that’s just what happened today when top conservation officials from the Obama administration made an announcement that they would direct $80 million from the Department of Agriculture’s Wetlands Reserve Program and $1.5 million from the Department of Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fun account toward buying easements from private landowners in the recently-established Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, north of Lake Okechobee. Announced by Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack and Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Rachel Jacobson, these funds could ensure the long-term conservation of up to 25,000 acres.
Going a step further, Jacobson also announced the beginning of a public dialogue and planning process to explore the creation of two additional collaborative conservation areas in the Fisheating Creek watershed and including a network of lands reaching toward the existing Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. As in the Everglades Headwaters region, the new conservation areas would be pursued as public-private partnerships that strike a balance for wildlife, ranching, economic development, water management, and recreation.
For several years the NWRA has worked intensively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ranchers, sportsmen, the state and other federal agencies and departments, and conservation NGOs to advance conservation of the Northern Everglades, including establishment of the Everglades Headwaters. Today’s announcement takes us an important step closer to achieving our goal.
Read our press release here: NWRA Applauds Northern Everglades Funding