VERO BEACH, Fla. - Rich Mode drove from St. Cloud to attend the meeting. He wanted representatives from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to hear his thoughts about a proposed wildlife refuge.
Mode owns a ranch in southern Osceola County and he likes to ride his airboat on the property.
His land is included in an area federal government officials are currently studying. Those officials are trying to figure out where an area of conservation would best serve Lake Okeechobee and waters south of it.
The idea is to establish the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, carving out a 150,000 acre area of conservation from privately-owned ranches.
The federal government would spend $700 million buying 50,000 acres of land and secure easements on another 100,000 acres that would remain privately-owned.
Development would not be allowed on any of the land. Government officials say activities that are popular on the land, including hunting, fishing and boating would still be allowed.
There would be no eminent domain.
Mode doesn't trust that government will live up to its promises.
"They come on and they say things, they're going to make all these pretty promises. They're going to fix things for us and make it better," says Mode. "But in the long run, they turn around, they close the doors and lock us out in the name of conservation."
Many of the 500 people in attendance at Thursday night's meeting shared the same sentiment, but George Glenn sees a different threat to the land.
If the government doesn't buy it, who might?
"I think now, with the temperament up in Tallahassee, you're going to see a lot less protection for wildlife," says Glenn. "I think they're going to away with a lot of the growth management rules and so it's going to really make these natural areas susceptible to development where they usually wouldn't have been."
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