CAPE CORAL, Fla. — U.S. Fish and Wildlife is working to develop a 4-million-acre Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area and is looking for your public comment.
“This is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the country,” said Julie Morris, Director of the Florida Conservation Group and the Florida and Gulf Program Manager for the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “So, flora and fauna exist here that don’t exist anywhere else.”
Morris says despite this conservation area being so ecologically important, it is very much under threat.
“It is incumbent upon us to protect our most environmentally sensitive lands from development,” said Morris.
But it's not just development, but also land use changes and the effects of climate change.
“Protecting this land is critical if we value water, wildlife, clean air, all that natural capital that nature provides us,” said Morris.
The proposed plan would allow U.S. Fish and Wildlife to protect these lands.
“To work with wiling landowners to either purchase land outright for recreational opportunities, but to primarily purchase conservation easements, so the development rights off of those properties,” said Morris.
And this on top of the existing land that the state of Florida is still buying up. So far under the Florida Forever program, which has protected more than 2.6 million acres.
“So, this will enable U.S. Fish and Wildlife to partner with the state and leverage dollars with other state, federal, local entities, so we can maximize our conservation footprint and as efficient with taxpayer dollars as possible,” said Morris.
Once the comments are evaluated, U.S. Fish and Wildlife hope to develop a final plan for approval before the end of the year. If you would like to comment, you will have to move fast as the deadline is November 1. You can comment by emailing email@example.com.