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Shooting range planned for Osceola County wildlife area

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - Plans to put a shooting range in a state wildlife area in Osceola County have some conservationists upset.

The state wants to put a gun range at the Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area in St. Cloud, but the decision has the Audubon Society concerned.

"This puts a 358-acre facility in the middle of a conservation area," said Kissimmee Valley Audubon President Larry Rosen.

The state's council that oversees state conservation land approved the shooting park last week in a unanimous vote.

Rosen said the decision contradicts the very purpose for the state setting aside the land in the first place.

"This is one of the places the state set apart so people can have a place to come, whether hunting, bird watching or trail walking," Rosen said.

Rosen said he's now concerned the facility will cause the wildlife habitat to be fragmented. He said, ironically, that will end up hurting things for hunters in the long run by reducing the amount of game.

The FWC points out that the shooting range would take up just 2 percent of the 16,000-acre preserve.

"The mission of the FWC is to work with hunters and hunting," said Bill Cline of the FWC. "This land was purchased with funds used for that purpose."

Cline said more than 5,000 people signed a petition urging the county to create a safe place for hunters to take classes. He said hunters will fund the $1.4 million complex through a self-imposed tax on firearms and ammunition.

The shooting park still faces a long permitting process. The wildlife area provides a habitat for deer and many species of birds and butterflies.