WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun a preliminary study to create a new national wildlife refuge and conservation area that would span 150,000 acres of the Kissimmee River Valley in central Florida, the Interior Department said on Friday.
The proposed area, part of an initiative to preserve the Everglades ranching heritage as well as its headwaters, fish and wildlife, includes 50,000 acres for potential purchase while working with landowners to conserve the remaining 100,000 acres, an Interior Department statement said.
“The Everglades rural working ranch landscapes are an important piece of our nation’s history and economy, and this initiative would work to ensure that they remain vital for our future,” the statement quoted Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar as saying.
“The partnerships being formed would protect and improve water quality north of Lake Okeechobee, restore wetlands, and connect existing conservation lands and important wildlife corridors.”
The area could be used to protect 88 federal and state-listed species and would connect to around 690,000 acres of conserved land.
The finalized proposal for the Everglades Headwaters is expected by the end of the year.
Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton