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THE ISSUE: Meeting date extended.
OUR OPINION: This is the right thing to do.
Due to a “glitch in communication,” the meeting planned to gather public comment about the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River has been extended until July 13.
We commend the federal agency for acting responsibly and recognizing its mistake and for taking steps to ensure the public has an opportunity to give input into this valuable process. After all, the area is a natural resource used by many, both from in and out of the county.
What the mistake underscores is the reliance on media to get the message out. By not updating its source list and making sure the people needing to be contacted are the correct people, an important deadline was missed. Therefore, there was not sufficient time for public officials and residents to be heard or to read the 322-page draft of the plan.
A suggestion would be to find alternative ways to get the message to the targeted audience. Granted, the press release did not come out of the Crystal River office. Instead it was sent from a Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Federal Wildlife Service office.
Refuge Manager Michael Lusk insisted a copy of the plan was sent to the city of Crystal River and local media outlets, but it did not get to the right people. In the case of the Chronicle, it was sent to a former editor who has not been at the newspaper for a long time.
This mix-up is a perfect example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing, ultimately causing major embarrassment and maybe in some cases, fostering further mistrust in the federal agency that has been at the core of restricting use of King’s Bay.
We understand the meeting was not being held to decide policymaking for the refuge, but, instead, it was an opportunity for the public to add suggestions to the wish list on what to do to grow the refuge complex.
We strongly encourage the national office to take to heart the ideas and desires of the local office to expand the property. It is a gem and well worth investing dollars to guarantee it is there for future generations to enjoy.