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Sept. 22, 2003
CONTACT: Karen Parker (386) 758-0525

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has halted its pursuit of a sovereign submerged lands (SSL) management agreement on the Potts Preserve and Flying Eagle wildlife management areas (WMAs) in Citrus County.

The decision came after a Sept. 12 public meeting in Inverness where FWC officials heard comments from the public concerning the issue. An overwhelming majority of the more than 450 people who attended the meeting opposed any such agreement.

“After we read and tallied the comment cards, the results showed that 330 individuals opposed the FWC’s plan, while only 32 supported it,” said Roland Garcia, FWC’s regional director for the North Central Region.

The purpose of the meeting was to explain the FWC’s plan for managing the two areas, including why the agency wanted to obtain the sovereign submerged lands agreement with the Division of State Lands. Such an agreement would have allowed the FWC to regulate activities on sovereign submerged lands that would have become part of the wildlife management areas.

Garcia explained during the meeting that the FWC needed the agreement to manage the areas more effectively. 

“Our job is to give guidance on how the land needs to be managed based on science, wildlife populations, wildlife diversity, hunter density, etc.  We could do this more effectively if we had authority over the total acreage on these wildlife management areas, including the sovereign submerged lands,” said Garcia.

However, the meeting was also held to give the public a forum to ask questions and to express their concerns and comments.

“We held the meeting to give the public a voice in the plan’s process. We quickly learned of the public’s opposition of FWC obtaining the SSL management agreement,” Garcia said.

“However, I want to emphasize that FWC’s involvement with Potts Preserve and Flying Eagle will not end with this decision,” Garcia stated. “FWC will continue to maintain the two areas in the WMA system. The agency’s goal is to effectively manage the fish and wildlife resources and provide multiple recreational opportunities on these areas.

“Toward that end, I have directed FWC staff to work closely with our stakeholders in the Citrus County area to find creative solutions to the existing management problems on the two WMAs,” said Garcia. 

Examples of the issues on the areas include protection of bird rookeries and eliminating certain user group conflicts.

“We have spoken to three of the major user groups in the area, and they are aware of our concerns and are willing to work with us,” Garcia concluded. “The leaders of these groups, including TOOFAR (Taxpayers Organization Outraged For Accountable Representation), have agreed to partner with us in order to come up with voluntary solutions to the problems on these areas.”





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