INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – The Pelican Island Audubon Society has announced that there will be a Fish and Wildlife Public Hearing from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, February 10 at the Vero Beach High School, main campus cafeteria. The hearing addresses conserving approximately 50,000 acres in fee title acquisitions and 100,000 acres in less-than-fee title of public and private lands in Indian River, Okeechobee, Osceola, Polk and Highlands counties to create the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area The USFWS proposal to establish this refuge and conservation area is the most important recent development in Everglades Restoration, and the Audubon Society is in strong support.
Given the shortage of funds for acquisition of land in “fee simple”, and the interest of landowners in retaining land in environmentally compatible cattle ranching operations, USFWS should give maximum attention to innovative agreements with landowners, acquisition of conservation easements, and similar techniques to achieve permanent conservation.
The size of the refuge and/or conservation area should include the majority of the lands outside of Osceola County’s urban development boundary.
USFWS should consider integrating water storage/wetlands restoration/water quality improvement features in the project to slow the flow of water toward Lake Okeechobee.
The public is invited to attend and speak at the event; as the number of participants will play an important part in gaining support for the initiative.
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