Protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor

$46.6 Million Approved to Conserve More Than 21,000 Acres Across Florida

With Earth Day quickly approaching on April 22, Florida residents and wildlife, particularly along the Florida Wildlife Corridor, have a new reason to celebrate. In March, the Florida Cabinet and Gov. Ron DeSantis unanimously approved the investment of over $46.6 million for conservation easement and acquisition across five properties across our state. These properties, totaling 21,063 acres, are located within Highlands, Manatee, Osceola, Santa Rosa, and Liberty counties. 

This recent acquisition brings the total protected acreage within Florida Wildlife Corridor to 80,356 acres since the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act became law on July 1, 2021. Four out of the five properties added this March are along the corridor, a network of connected lands and waters which sustains Florida’s best wild places and protects more than 700 imperiled species, including key Florida species such as the Florida panther, Florida black bear, Eastern indigo snake, Florida scrub jay, and the Apalachicola gopher tortoise. 

The five parcels of land are further described below:

  • 12,439 acres within the Telogia Creek Florida Forever project in Liberty County will be managed by The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This project benefits native, imperiled Florida wildlife such as the gopher tortoise, Apalachicola alligator snapping turtle, and eastern indigo and Florida pine snakes and ensures the continued protection of the area’s drinking water supply.
  • 1,506 acres within the Wolfe Creek Forest Florida Forever project in Santa Rosa County will enhance public recreation facilities and will be managed by the Florida Forest Service as an addition to Blackwater River State Forest. The acreage is situated between Blackwater River State Forest and Whiting Field Naval Air Station, a juncture of public, private, federal, state, local, and private entities. Currently, the land hosts areas that can support upland pine forests and sandhills and also include wetlands and associated bottomland forests, floodplain swamps, and bay galls. 
  • 4,222 acres within the Big Bend Swamp/Holopaw Ranch Florida Forever project in Osceola county is part of the larger Florida Natural Scenic Trail and serves as an important linkage and buffer to existing conservation lands. The project will benefit rare/endangered Florida wildlife such as the Florida sandhill crane,Florida grasshopper sparrow, Sherman’s fox squirrel, red-cockaded woodpecker, swallow-tailed kite, and crested caracara. 
  • 1,611 acres within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever project in Manatee County includes land on both sides of Myakka River State Park. The project will benefit species such as the crested caracara, Florida burrowing owl, gopher tortoise, Florida sandhill crane, and southeastern American kestrel, as well as the Eastern indigo snake, Florida black bear, and Florida panther.
  • 1,285 acres within the Blue Head Ranch Florida Forever project in Highlands County lies within the Florida Ecological Greenways Network. The Lightsey Family Ranch is within the Blue Head Ranch boundary and thus will be permanently protected through the state’s Florida Forever program. This project will also help to ensure the environmental and hydrological health of the Florida Everglades Ecosystem and provide and enhance the habitat of numerous rare and imperiled Florida species. 

Collaborative efforts from organizations such as the Florida Conservation Group, Conservation Florida, The Conservation Fund, Trust for Public Land, and the state’s Florida Forever Program made this recent land acquisition possible. 

“The work to create and preserve the Florida Wildlife Corridor precedes us and will outlast us — it’s ambitious, it’s difficult, it’s visionary, it’s essential,” says Mallory Dimmitt, chief executive officer of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation. 

“This legacy can only be secured through collaborative efforts from partners across the state. This includes our state agencies, landowners, business owners, and non-governmental organizations like Florida Conservation Group, Conservation Fund, and Trust for Public Land to name a few.” 

She continues, saying, “With ‘a big tent’ mindset, we can leverage our best creative thinking, relationship building, and collaborative problem solving to continue to conserve and connect Florida’s wild spaces. Florida deserves nothing less.”

DeSantis was pleased with the work to protect the land. 

“Good stewardship of Florida’s natural resources by conserving natural lands for future generations is a top priority for our administration,” he says. 

“This action will protect our water resources, enhance wildlife and habitat connections, and provide additional public recreation opportunities for our residents and visitors.”

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