Memorandum - Peterson - 1979-05-21

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Memorandum - Peterson - 1979-05-21

Material Information

Memorandum - Peterson - 1979-05-21
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Box 2


Subjects / Keywords:
Ranchers -- Law and legislation -- Florida
Okeechobee, Lake (Fla.) ( lcsh )

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
The University of South Florida Libraries believes that the Item is in the Public Domain under the laws of the United States, but a determination was not made as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. The Item may not be in the Public Domain under the laws of other countries.
Resource Identifier:
035069031 ( ALEPH )
981477171 ( OCLC )
L41-00114 ( USFLDC DOI )
l41.114 ( USFLDC Handle )

USFLDC Membership

University of South Florida
Lorida Audubon Collection

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MEMORANnm, TO: Russell Peterson FROM: Nathaniel P. DATF.: May 7.1, 1979 ,,/ SUBJECT: Kissimmee Prairie I met Rod Chandler on May 15 at Okeechobee. We drove 25 miles horth on county roads until we entered private ranch roads. We cut cross country until we entered the prospective Kissimmee property and joined two of Rod's relatives who had a small jeep. The land was wet from the early spring rainy season and covered with spring flowers. The ditches of the adjacent ranches were overflowing and wading birds were present in great numbers feeding on insects and minnows. We were both surprised when we positively identified a Great White Heron feeding among a group of American egrets. We slowly inspected the proposed three sections and the "ultimate preserve" of nine sections. Historically, the lands adjacent to the Kissimmee River made ~pa 40 to 50,000 acre wet prairie. Low, unusually flat, even by Florida standards, the Kissimmee Prairie was alternately seasonally wet and dry. The vegetation is low; 12 inch high dwarf palmetto, numerous wild grasses, a vast range of wild flowers broken to the east by dense palm hammocks and palm islands mixed with some hardwoods, surrounded by shallow ponds. The long, seasonal wet period has caused the palmetto to stunt and unquestionably is res~onsible for the varied wild flowers and heavy use by colonial wading birds. Although the land has been burnt on a fairly frequent basis for cattle grazing, the palm hammocks are not badly scorched. I could see no evidence that adjacent drainage ditches are adversely affecting the land. The native Kissimmee Prairie has been disappearing for 100 years but the rate of conversion to cattle pasture is rapidly increasing.


Memorandu~ to Dr. Peterson Page 2 May 21, 1979 To the north, large-scale housing developments and cut rate swamp land peddlers have also caused the prairie to shrink. The nine sections of the File ranch may fepresent a ~ unique Florida landscape. I do ~ot believe the three-section concept should b , ~ pursued. If the Society cannot preserve a minimum of nir.Le sections, it should abandon the Kissimmee Prairie priority as an Audubon s anctuary. Three sections are simply too vulnerable to unforseeable, dramatic land use changes. Even the nine section proposal presents serious problems of how it can be visited or interpreted. A simple sand loop road will be expensive to construct and maintain and also has the potential of damaging the proposed preserve. My recommendations are as follows. 1. To have the property inspected by a team of expert botanists and ecologists who can ascertain whether my impression of "unique" is accurate. 2. That if the team reports favorably, that all negotiations be handled by the Nature Conservancy in close cooperation with representatives of National Audubon. I believe the Conservancy has the expertise readily available that could point out the advantages to the present owners of a sale-gift which could dramatically reduce the acquisition cost. I have a feeling that the nine sections might be bought for approximately $275 an acre if we can sustain a gift of $200 an acre. The negotiations will be tiresome and involved. I see no reason to expend Audubon's limited resources on land acquisition when the expertise of the Nature Conservancy is readily available. . ~ have made arrangements to have the land inspected by a team of Walt Dineen, Bob Goodrick and Jim Milliken. They recognized authorities on the Kissimmee River ecosystem. I would hope they could make an inspection and issue a report 30 days.


. . .. Memorandum to Dr. Peterson Page 3 May 21, 1979 Jim Kern has volunteered to produce a short slide show for the Audubon directors to give them a feeling of the land. As the state of Florida has not prepared a Natural Heritage inventory, the Director of State Parks, Ney Landrum was unable to identify the Kissimmee Prairie as a stat~ priority. The and Wildlife ServicP. indicated that the Fissimmee Prairie had been one of its 50 top Florida priorities but the cutback in funding and increasing inflation was causing them to pinpoint their acquisition efforts in interior and coastal wetlands. State Director Hankla did say that the Fish and Wildlife Service might be able to jointly acquire with National Auduson some of the Kissimmee Prairie acreage. It is an avenue worth future exploration.


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