Town of Big Cypress to Participate in New Habitat Conservation Plan

Plan will protect multiple species in Eastern Collier's Rural Lands Stewardship area

17 Feb, 2010, 16:47 ET from Collier Enterprises

NAPLES, Fla., Feb. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Collier Enterprises today announced that it will delay permitting for the Town of Big Cypress in order to participate in a new Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) being created by a coalition of conservation organizations and Collier County landowners.  The HCP will provide protection for multiple species in eastern Collier's Rural Lands Stewardship area, including the endangered Florida panther.

The idea for a Habitat Conservation Plan for eastern Collier County originated from the Florida Panther Protection Program, a collaboration of landowners and conservation organizations, including Florida Wildlife Federation, Audubon of Florida, Collier County Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife, working together to promote recovery of the panther species.  The program recommends additional protective measures for the panther associated with new development in the Collier County Rural Lands Stewardship Area.

"For the last few years we've been working with a number of large and small landowners and leading conservation organizations in an effort to balance economic development and the protection of the Florida panther in eastern Collier County," said Christian Spilker, vice president of land management for Collier Enterprises.  "The next logical step in the process is to move ahead with an overall Habitat Conservation Plan for the area and that's what we've agreed to do."  

Habitat Conservation Plans under the Endangered Species Act provide a scientifically supported framework for landowners to complete projects while conserving at-risk species of plants and animals.  Congress established the program to reduce conflicts between listed species and economic development, encourage cooperation and creative partnerships between the public and private sectors, and integrate land-use activities with conservation goals.  Large-scale plans like this one take about two years to complete and require a minimum 60-90-day public comment period.

The recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny petitions for critical habitat designation in favor of continuing a more collaborative approach among landowners and conservation organizations was also a clear signal that the HCP was the best way to protect the Florida panther.

"We are pleased that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been supportive of the collaboration between landowners and conservation organizations regarding the panther and has recently reaffirmed its decision to encourage this process to continue," said Spilker.  "This support by the USFWS was a key factor in our decision to delay permitting for the Town of Big Cypress and participate fully in the HCP process.  We look forward to continuing our work with landowners, conservation organizations and the Service on this important next step."

About Town of Big Cypress

The plans for the sustainable Town of Big Cypress include 9,000 residential units as well as jobs, shopping, health care, schools, civic and cultural activities and recreation all situated on 2,800 acres in eastern Collier County.  Under the Rural Lands Stewardship Program, Collier Enterprises would protect nearly 10,000 acres of environmentally significant wetlands and wildlife habitat in conjunction with the creation of the new town, all at zero cost to taxpayers.

About Collier Enterprises

Headquartered in Naples, Florida, Collier Enterprises is engaged in real estate investment and development, agribusiness and private equity investments.  The company was established in 1976 under the leadership of Miles C. Collier and traces its roots to Barron Gift Collier, who founded Collier County in 1923. For more information, please visit www.CollierEnterprises.com .

Contact:  Jennifer Varoski, Collier Enterprises, 239-434-4029, or jvaroski@collierenterprises.com

SOURCE Collier Enterprises



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