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The owners of Sunshine Key RV Park recently agreed to donate $80,000 toward cleaning up the new Ohio Key federal wildlife refuge in the Florida Keys, according to Keysnews.com, the online service of the Key West Citizen.
The money will be used to pay for the removal of trash and removing invasive exotic plants on the adjacent Middle Keys island.
The campground owners are giving the money to Friends and Volunteers of the Refuge, a nonprofit group under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
The FWS bought the island from the private owner about a year ago and committed it to conservation and Keys residents banded together to help rehabilitate the island after years of neglect, according to Keysnews.com.
The effort could be a boon for the Keys delicate ecosystem. Ohio Key provides one of the best habitats for the piping plover, an endangered bird species, said Phil Frank, refuge manager for the National Key Deer Refuge.
Sea turtles are also known to nest on the beaches, but Australian pines invaded, their roots making it difficult for the turtles to dig holes for their eggs.
Several months ago, Friends and Volunteers began the cleanup by chopping the pines and Brazilian pepper trees, Frank said. The refuse is now drying and being prepared for removal.
“With this money, we are going to be signing some contracts to get the hauling started and we want to have the whole thing finished by March 1,” he said.