Attendees of the 26th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference this weekend received some unexpected good news when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the proposal to create a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area to preserve the community’s ranching heritage and conserve the headwaters and fish and wildlife of the Everglades.
In this venture, the Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to protect approximately 150,000 acres of important environmental and cultural landscapes in the Kissimmee River Valley south of Orlando. In addition to improving water quality, the proposed conservation area and refuge would protect important habitat for 88 federal and state listed species, including the Florida panther, Florida black bear and whooping crane.
“The Greater Everglades is one of the most fascinating, biologically diverse areas of the world. Yet the region – as well as many endangered species who call it home – continues to face grave threats.”
This year, Defenders of Wildlife co-hosted the Everglades Coalition Conference, called Renewal of Life for the Everglades: Moving Forward Together. Florida representative Elizabeth Fleming, who moderated a discussion on safe passage for wildlife on busy roads, said of Salazar’s announcement, “We are thrilled with the plan to establish the Everglades Headwaters refuge. Defenders sees this as part of a much larger vision to conserve wildlife habitat in a significant area of interconnected lands that reach the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.”
During the conference, the Everglades Coalition outlined its conservation priorities for the year. This year’s goals include protecting key wildlife habitat, reducing water pollution and sustaining momentum on Everglades restoration jobs.
Defenders’ Florida director Laurie Macdonald moderated a plenary session on large-scale initiatives to protect the Greater Everglades ecosystem. She said, “The Greater Everglades is one of the most fascinating, biologically diverse areas of the world. Yet the region – as well as many endangered species who call it home – continues to face grave threats.”
“Now is the time to seize opportunities for coordinated federal, state and local action. Several large-scale planning initiatives are underway that, in concert with Everglades restoration plans, have the potential to preserve a network of public and private conservation lands that benefit not only wildlife but people as well.”
Read more about the threats facing America’s Everglades in a new Endangered Species Coalition report, “It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World.”