Interior Department Acquires Florida Land as Panther Refuge
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Interior Department has acquired 25,000 acres of land in southern Florida for a refuge to protect the state’s threatened panthers, the department said Tuesday.
The land east of Naples and adjacent to the Big Cypress National Preserve will be the location of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to be managed by Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service.
The land was purchased for $10 million. An additional 5,000 acres will be part of the refuge as a result of land exchange.
″The Florida panther is one of our country’s most endangered species. It is a symbol of the wilderness amidst the booming development of South Florida,″ said Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan.
The Florida panther is among the most critically endangered mammals in the country, with only an estimated 30 to 50 animals remaining.
The new refuge also will provide habitat for a half dozen other endangered or threatened species including the wood stork, snail kite, bald eagle, red- cockaded woodpecker, peregrine falcon and Eastern indigo snake, officials said.