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Got Opinions On Florida's Environmental Future? State Agencies Want To Hear From You

Tricia Woolfenden

Citizen scientists and environmental stewards take note: Two state agencies are in the process of soliciting public comment on issues that could impact Florida's overall ecological outlook. 

First up is the South Florida Water Management District, which is accepting public comments on four parcels of land in the Upper Lakes Management Region located north of Orlando. These include Tibet-Butler Preserve, Shingle Creek, Lake Marion Creek and Reedy Creek, and SUMICA. 

The SFWMD is in the midst of a review of the agency's "fee owned lands -- approximately 750,000 acres in which the agency has full ownership rights." The Upper Lakes assessment is the initial phase of a project that aims to look at all similar lands in the state by mid-2013. 

According to SFWMDobjectives and evaluation criteria

To provide the most benefit to taxpayers, lands that do not directly support the core mission may be considered for alternative uses or recommended to the SFWMD Governing Board for surplus. The surplus process may result in lands being swapped for more needed properties or offered for public bid...   

Audubon Florida Advocate encouraged action from its readers and members, saying "we believe all of the listed properties should be retained in public ownership as conversation land; they constitute the true 'Headwaters of the Everglades'."  

The agency will host a public meeting on the Upper Lakes parcels from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the St. Cloud Field Station. Public comments are open through Feb. 18 and can be submitted through an online form. A "detailed land portfolio" of the Everglades Assessment Region -- which includes Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties -- likely will come up for public review later this year. 

Meanwhile, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission -- the folks responsible for the much ballyhooed Python Challenge -- has invited the public to weigh in on "draft species actions" for threatened Florida wildlife.

The first group of 23 species presented for comment includes 11 birds (including the white ibis, roseate spoonbill, and Scott's seaside sparrow), as well as five freshwater fish, four mammals, two reptiles, and one amphibian. FWC will present plans for a total of 60 species. 

Once the process is complete, FWC will issue an Imperiled Species Management Plan "that will be the blueprint for conserving 60 species on Florida's Endangered and Threatened Species list." The comment period for the first group will remain open through March 13. View the species plans and comment by visiting the FWC's imperiled species page and clicking the links under "Your Opportunity to Participate in Species Action Plans." 

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