Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
News

600 acres in Weeki Wachee could be wildlife management area


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WEEKI WACHEE - More than a combined 600 acres between Weeki Wachee and Chassahowitzka is expected to be made available for recreation such as hiking, biking and bow-hunting if approved for annexation at a meeting Tuesday in Tampa.

The added lands are part of a revision to a cooperative agreement between Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the District for Wildlife Management Areas, which will be brought before the Southwest Florida Water Management District board for a vote 9 a.m. at 7601 U.S. Hwy 301 N. (Fort King Hwy).

The land surplus was declared by the district's Operations and Land Management Committee.

"The agreement itself, really what it is, is to create more efficiency for us, as well as for the commission," said Joe Quinn of SWFWMD. "It takes several agreements we had with them dating back to the 1980s for areas already designated as wildlife management areas, and new wildlife management areas we've identified recently into one agreement."

The 600 acres is Weeki Wachee Preserve properties south of the Weeki Wachee River, Quinn said, and span between Hernando and Pasco counties.

The northern land portion nearing the river, which consists of about 2,850 acres, will be designated as a separate archery hunting area available for the 2013-14 hunting season, Quinn said.

"It was actually a request from a recreationist for additional hunting opportunities," Quinn said regarding the proposed decision to revise the existing agreement and add the land. "A little more than two years ago, at the request of hunting groups and those with hunting interests, we were asked to seek additional opportunities available on district land, and Weeki Wachee was one of those lands evaluated in that process."

After that process was complete, the northern 600 acres encompassed by Chassahowitzka was another area identified to add archery hunting opportunities, Quinn said.

"At that point we entered into discussion with FWC to manage that area for the possibility of added hunting opportunities, and what we've seen come out of it is make available additional hunting for folks in this region."

The lands were previously owned by the water district, and were acquired as part of the Weeki Wachee Preserve project area, which consists of a number of properties purchased throughout the years to preserve Weeki Wachee's water bodies, Quinn said.

The acreage was purchased in the 1990s, Quinn said, and there was a wide range of stakeholders involved in discussions to open the land for recreational access, Quinn said.

"Just the full-gamut," Quinn said. "We were trying to be as inclusive as possible in bringing those in consideration to the stakeholder group, as we do with any kind of recreational opportunity."

mreinig@hernandotoday.com

352-544-5271

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