BRADENTON -- Enlarged maps of surface tracts were propped against the wall inside a room Wednesday afternoon at the Manatee County Central Library.
The tracts and their futures were the center of a public meeting called by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management. Members of the federal agency were on hand to answer questions from the public on a new draft of a resource management plan.
Field manager Bruce Dawson said the land-use plan covers nine states: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
"This is a plan to set general direction for the next 10 to 20 years," Dawson said. "We wanted to get public input on what we're proposing for some of the surface tracts that you see along the wall there."
One tract listed is Egmont Key. The BLM proposes it be designated as an "area of critical environmental concern."
Richard Johnson and his wife, Cindi Para, drove from St. Petersburg with their friend, Jim Spangler, to learn of Egmont Key's fate. Concerned citizens have long been involved with environmental preservation on the island.
"It's a complicated place with a lot of threats and a lot of people have spent a lot of time and money over the years from a lot of different agencies -- government and volunteer -- to make it better," Johnson said. "Progress is there, but it's difficult."
Pointing at the Egmont Key map, Dawson spoke of its importance. "There's a historical lighthouse here, a historical fort, there's nesting areas for sea turtles," he said. "There's all kinds of cultural values, natural-resource values ... and it's just our responsibility to get it right."
The public comment period closes Jan. 29.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.