A Bright Future for the River of Grass


By:  Ken Salazar
Date: Jan. 20, 2012
Location: Unknown

Covering some 2.3 million acres of south-central Florida, the Everglades is one of our nation's greatest natural treasures. This week, I traveled to Florida to announce two significant actions the Obama Administration is taking to conserve and protect this special place that is so critical to Florida's economy and well-being.

First, today we accepted the first donation of land to officially establish the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, conserving one of the last remaining grassland and longleaf pine savanna landscapes in eastern North America.

The new refuge and conservation area, which eventually will consist of up to 150,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee, will strengthen the long-term health of the Everglades -- restoring wetlands, enhancing water quality and protecting habitat and working landscapes.

This is a locally-driven, community-supported initiative. We are working with local ranchers, farmers and landowners - as well as our partners in The Nature Conservancy, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - to conserve the wildlife values on working lands while retaining farmers and ranchers right to raise livestock or crops. This cooperative, totally voluntary effort will preserve the area's unique ranching and farming heritage and help grow a robust outdoor recreation economy with increased opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, and bird watching. Many local ranchers and farmers are excited about the opportunity to conserve both the land they love and the way of life handed down from generations past.

However, we will never succeed in conserving our nation's wildlife and its habitat if we don't control and remove invasive predators that imperil native species and unbalance ecosystems. In Florida, large constrictor snakes pose a real and immediate threat to the wildlife in the Everglades and other ecosystems in the United States. That is why yesterday we announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is imposing a ban on importing and transporting four species of invasive snakes: the Burmese python, the yellow anaconda, and the northern and southern African pythons.

By listing the four snakes as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act, we are taking an important step toward restricting their spread in the wild and slowing the untold damage invasive snakes cause to Florida's economy and environment.

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