BREAKING: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida today.
The refuge aims to conserve the Everglades’ headwaters and fish and wildlife and to preserve the community’s ranching heritage.
“The creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area is not only critical for restoring imperiled wildlife, like Florida panthers and whooping cranes that depend on the region, but also for preserving a way of life for the ranchers who have made their living off the land for decades,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife.
The agency envisions expanding the small refuge to one day span some 150,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee in south Florida, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s website.
The majority of it will be protected through conservation easements purchased from private landowners, who would retain ownership of the land, as well as the right to raise cattle or crops, according to the Interior Department’s news release.
But the easements would protect the land from development, officials said.
“This endeavor is the perfect example of the payoff when diverse shareholders come together with a common conservation goal, and sets the stage for future collaboration to preserve Florida’s natural assets,” Clark said.