Using Decision Tools to Design the Everglades Headwaters NWR
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge (EHNWR) is strategically located in Florida to protect upland and wetland habitats. The location of the new refuge was targeted to: address pressures from urbanization and climate change, provide improved quality of water flowing southward to the Greater Everglades, and protect habitat for species of concern (e.g., Florida panther, Florida grasshopper sparrow, Everglades snail kite). Acquiring land for a large protected area such as the EHNWR comes with challenges because it typically takes many years to gather the funds to purchase all necessary parcels of land and could be complicated by future conditions such as climate and urbanization changes across the landscape. To meet the FWS-defined objectives for the EHNWR, including the protection of five target habitats, Southeast CASC supported researchers used Marxan with Zones as a decision tool to select configurations of parcels under different scenarios of urbanization and protection. The designs researchers generated met FWS habitat goals within fee and easement zone restrictions, and they found refuge configurations that fell well below the mandated size limit.