The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a draft report for something called the Everglades To Gulf Conservation Area that includes part of the land inhabited by members of Sierra Club’s Ancient Islands Group in Polk, Hardee, Highlands and DeSoto counties.
The thrust of the 348-page report is to protect more habitat via the purchase of either conservation easements or to buy the land outright.
At this point no one knows how much land will be protected. It will depend on funding and having willing landowners who want to participate. No one’s land is going to be taken.
The purposes include wetland restoration, water storage, water treatment and species habitat.
The plan describes this area that stretches from Collier County to Polk County as “one of the most important regional conservation landscapes in the United States.”
The plan’s analysis describes that more than half of the region’s freshwater forested wetlands, upland hardwood hammocks, high pine and scrub. Pine flatwoods and wet prairies
Additionally, another 38 percent of another important habitat called dry prairie, which is home to important species such as Florida grasshopper prairie and crested caracara, remains unprotected.
Unsurprisingly, the main threat to the loss of these key habitat losses is encroachment of urban development farther inland and more intensive conversion of farm lands.