The following comment was submitted 4-17-2023 to the USFWS regarding its proposed Southwest Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Area:
To: United States Fish & Wildlife Service
From: Florida Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
To whom it may concern,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment on the proposed Southwest Florida fish and wildlife conservation area. My name is Richard Martinez and I am the current chair of the Florida Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. On behalf of the chapter I would like to submit the following comments:
The Florida Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers supports the creation of the proposed Southwest Florida Conservation Area by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. We strongly support the inclusion of hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping as compatible recreational uses in the Land Protection Plan and thank the USFWS for including recreational uses as part of the draft goals of this project.
We support the ecological priorities included in the plan, but would like to encourage the project to focus on those areas between Okaloacoochee Slough/Dinner Island/Spirit-of-the-wild and Big Cypress National Preserve/Big Cypress Reservation/Florida Panther NWR. We feel the preservation of connectivity with these areas currently under protection, will be critical in the future as development continues in the area.
With regards to the acquisition of conservation easements on private lands, we’d request that the USFWS analyze, offer and pursue a range of options to participating private land owners which could facilitate public hunting, fishing and/or other public recreational access on properties with conservation easements through a public access lease program or permanent recreational access easement options.
Overall, we support the project and recognize the importance of preserving the ecological characteristics of lands located within the study area. As development in our region continues, projects like this will be critical to maintaining the natural quality of not only these lands but the surrounding areas through protection of wildlife corridors and watershed restoration.
For more information on the proposed conservation area, Click Here.