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Celebrating Success at the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area

Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Patrick Murphy were among the Florida dignitaries on hand at the Adams Ranch in Fort Pierce today to celebrate the completion of the first set of conservation easements to be added to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.

When people hear the word “Everglades,” most conjure up a mental image of an endless vista of sawgrass stretching off to the horizon. Few think of cowboys or the pine flatwoods located just south of Orlando’s tourist-laden amusement parks, yet the ranchers and sportsmen who utilize Central Florida’s landscapes play a pivotal role in ensuring a healthy Everglades ecosystem.

Florida panther | USFWS
Florida panther | USFWS

The Everglades Headwaters Refuge and Conservation Area was envisioned to use a unique combination of conservation easements, which leave land in private ownership and on the tax rolls, and land acquisition from willing sellers.

More than 5,700 acres of critical ranch, farming, wildlife habitat, flood protection area and water storage lands have been added to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area thanks to conservation partnerships formed by Florida ranchers, sportsmen, state and federal agencies and non-profits.

“Conserving land in the Everglades Headwaters is critical to our long-term efforts to restore the River of Grass,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL. “It allows us to hold more water North of Lake Okeechobee, which helps improve the quality of water flowing not only into the lake, but all the way down into Everglades National Park.”

Using $12.5 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has secured 4,214.99 acres in conservation easements and acquired 1,502.26 acres of land, including 400 acres of donated land. These latest acquisitions also leverage additional investments being made by the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the State of Florida.

Five properties were involved in the recent acquisitions: the Hatchineha Ranch owned by the Nature Conservancy, Adams Ranch, Camp Lonesome, Tiger Cattle Company and the Idols Aside property.

“It’s an honor for Adams Ranch to protect land as part of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge,” said Mike Adams, President of Adams Ranch, Inc.  “We take pride in our management of Florida’s natural resources as well as our cattle, and conservation easements will allow our succeeding generations to enjoy this heritage as well.”

The result is a landscape-scale conservation area from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes to Avon Air Force Park that will protect habitat for more than 30 threatened and endangered species, conserve important wetlands, and help sustain Florida’s ranching economy. It is a win-win all around – for conservation and watershed protection, agriculture economy, hunting and fishing access, and military readiness.

Together, these conservation easements and fee acquisitions will protect habitat for iconic Florida wildlife such as the Florida panther, Florida black bear, gopher tortoise and the highly endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow.

 

Click here to read the full Press Release.

 

 

Private landowners, like this Florida rancher, are crucial partners for successful conservation efforts.
Private landowners, like this Florida rancher, are crucial partners for successful conservation efforts | Carlton Ward, Jr.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/celebrating-success-at-the-everglades-headwaters-national-wildlife-refuge-and-conservation-area/

1 comment

  1. Janet Robinson says:

    This is great news. I hope you have the similar success at Panther National Wildlife Refuge where many homes are being planned near that refuge.

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