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Wildlife Corridor: Heartland To Headwaters

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team has trekked through scrub, swamp and forest from one end of the state to the other. They have documented their journeys in film, books and photography exhibitions with a goal demonstrating the urgent need for an unbroken spine of wilderness running the length of Florida to give wildlife a chance for survival.

The third expedition kicked off April 15 and once again, WUSF News reporters are along for the adventure. This time around the explorers want to highlight an area of wilderness in Central Florida that is threatened on all sides by urban development and transportation infrastructure including Interstate 4.

WUSF Public Media is a sponsor of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Follow along on with our reporters on our website and social media accounts on Facebook and on Twitter, using the hashtag #Heartland2Headwaters.

Carlton Ward Jr.

WUSF is following the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition as they bike, hike and kayak from Central Florida through the Panhandle to the Alabama state line. The three conservationists recently paddled down the Withlacoochee River from the Green Swamp to the Gulf Coast. We  tagged along with them for a trip back to primeval Florida - paddling down one of the state's most pristine springs.

 

Robin Sussingham

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is crossing the state to bring attention to Florida's wilderness and the need to connect it all. Expedition members Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, Joe Guthrie and Carlton Ward recently met up with several dozen friends and fellow environmentalists in their first "trail mixer" along the Withlacoochee River.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition are in the second week of their 10-week, 925-mile trek from Central Florida to the Alabama State line.  Part of their trip goes through the Green Swamp.  It's a mysterious place to most people, but critical to the the water supply for Central Florida.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Three years ago, four conservationists embarked on a trip to walk and kayak the entire length of Florida. Their mission: to bring attention to the need to protect lands connecting the state's wild areas. Now, The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is back - and it's taking a different turn.

There's an old Chinese proverb that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Well, they're not going a thousand miles - only 925 miles, give or take. And their first step was on a pedal. Of a bicycle.

The members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition are off on an encore version of their epic thousand-mile journey in 2012. Then, they trekked from the tip of the Everglades through the remaining wild spaces of the peninsula, north to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Back in 2012, four explorers spent 100 days walking and kayaking 1,000 miles up the length of Florida, from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. The mission – to publicize the need to connect the state’s remaining wild areas. This year, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is back.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Back in 2012, four explorers spent 100 days walking and kayaking 1,000 miles up the length of Florida, from the tip of the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. The mission – to publicize the need to connect the state’s remaining wild areas.

This year, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is back.

Carlton Ward Jr. / Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition

The last time we checked in with Carlton Ward Jr. was when the Tampa photographer was premiering the documentary based on his 1,000-mile trip hiking and kayaking up the length of Florida.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

WUSF News picked up a number of awards, including three first place honors, at the Associated Press Florida Broadcasters Awards Ceremony in Orlando this past weekend.

The WUSF News Team won First Place in the categories of "Continuing Coverage, Large Market Radio" for its coverage of the Republican National Convention and "Election Coverage, Large Market Radio" for its work on the 2012 Elections.

Stephen Glass Photography

Almost 600 people braved the coldest day of the year to watch how four explorers traversed the natural heart of Florida to show a wildlife corridor could still be done in the 21st century.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

Earlier this year, photographer Carlton Ward Jr. and three colleagues embarked on a trip to bring attention to the need to connect Florida's remaining wild areas - before it's too late. They called it the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition.  On Thursday night, Ward will kick off the first public exhibition of his photographs taken during that epic 100-day, 1,000-mile trip.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

The leader of the expedition that earlier this year traversed the length of Florida in 100 days talked about the expedition last night to a standing-room-only crowd at USF's St. Petersburg campus.  Carlton Ward says he's making progress on his mission to connect the state's disjointed wild areas.

WUSF recently went along with a thousand-mile journey through the heart of the state with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. But before that trip, another adventure was being captured in the lens of filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus.

In a documentary to be shown tonight on WUSF TV Channel 16, he takes a look at the history of how the Kissimmee River was straightened into a channel - how that devastated the wildlife in the headwaters of the Everglades - and how it's now being restored.

Steve Newborn

It's one day before the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is set to end. The members have pushed themselves to the limit for three months, and it's time to relax with a dip on a remote stretch of the Suwanee River.

"Nice to have a little down time before we enter the Okefenokee," says expedition leader Carlton Ward Jr.

Expedition members Carlton Ward, left, Joe Guthrie and Mallory Lykes Dimmitt frolic in the Suwanee River
Steve Newborn

After driving down an unmarked sandy road in the middle of Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp, I met the four members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition the day before they ended their trip on Earth Day. They were playing Frisbee in the dark waters of the Suwannee River. As the clouds darkened and a driving rainstorm washed over the group, I talked with the group about what they saw - and what they hope to accomplish.

 

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition just finished a 1,000-mile trip from the tip of the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Their mission is to create a continuous wildlife corridor stretching the length of the state.

Steve Newborn

Wildlife photographer Carlton Ward Jr., filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus, bear biologist Joe Guthrie and conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt have wrapped up the traveling part of their Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. They crossed the finish line Sunday, nearly 100 days after setting off in the Everglades on a 1,000-mile journey to the Georgia state line. Their goal is to inspire the creation of a permanent unbroken wildlife corridor. WUSF's Steve Newborn kept track of the expedition - and joined in on occasion - and was there when they crossed the finish line.

It's been 1,000 miles in nearly 100 days. They started at the tip of the Everglades, and Sunday, members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition reached the finish line - Georgia. Their goal is to connect the state's WUSF's Steve Newborn has been following the group, and reports on their mission - and whether it has a chance of succeeding.

Expedition member Carlton Ward Junior remembers slogging for days through the heart of the Everglades on kayak...

Members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition sport calluses and legs hardened by three months of hiking through saw grass, palmetto stands and piney woods.

On Sunday, these four adventurers mark the end of a 1,000-mile trek across Florida, from the tip of the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp.

Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

Part of the 1,000-mile trail the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is blazing through Florida passes through what may seem an unlikely place: the main training base for the Florida National Guard. WUSF's Steve Newborn reports on how the armed forces are armed with another mission: helping protect the state's wildlife.

Steve Newborn

One-thousand miles-- that's how far the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is kayaking, cycling and walking.  This week, they're crossing the Ocala National Forest. I recently hiked just nine of those miles, and walked away several blisters and a new appreciation for what they're doing.

It's dawn at Hopkins Prairie, a primitive campground deep in the Ocala forest. I unzip my tent and head through the morning fog to see what Rick Smith is up to.

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