Dispute growing over invasive plants at refuge

Dispute growing over invasive plants at refuge

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A battle is brewing over one of county's most precious resources.

Environmentalists say the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is in trouble - and the dispute over how to fix the problem could result in the state kicking the feds out the park. 
The issue at hand - the spread of Lygodium - an invasive plant that threatens to smother tree islands across the park.
The South Florida Water Management District points the blame for that towards Washington - and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the property.

"It's absolutely on the federal government because they are the ones that signed the agreement saying we will manage correctly," says Randy Smith with the management district.
Smith argues the agency is not living up to that 2002 agreement - to have the Lygodium under control by 2017.
"t's going to require 5 million dollars a year just to get this back to a manageable point," he says. "Fish and wildlife had not even asked congress for the money."
Fish and Wildlife, meanwhile, say not only has it consistently asked congress for money, it's also been investing into the refuge since 2002.
"32 million dollars has gone towards on the ground exotic plant control," says refuge manager Rolf Olson.
Olson also says agreement indicated that the state and the feds would work together to control the spread of the plant.

The issues could end a 61-year relationship.
"I think it's a strong possibility that we could be removed," Olson says. "We don't want to go, we want to stay here."
Fish and Wildlife is submitting a plan detailing how they plan on managing the Lygodium.

It's estimated it'll take $5 million a year for 5 years to get the plant under control, plus $3 million each additional year to make sure it stays under control. 

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