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Environment

Lawmakers Purchase Land In First Steps Toward Implementing Florida Wildlife Corridor Act

The sun sets over a field with palm trees and cows.
Photo by Woody Larson
/
Courtesy: Carlton Ward Jr., Path of the Panther
Cow Creek Ranch, part of the Rural & Family Lands Protection Program, will remain a working cattle ranch while protecting a corridor linkage on the east side of Lake Okeechobee

State lawmakers have taken another step toward preserving land that could eventually become a corridor for wildlife to migrate within Florida. It's one of the first steps in implementing the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act.

On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet approved nearly 20,000 acres of land to be preserved as key links in the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Six parcels will be purchased at a cost of about $50 million.

The Act was signed earlier this year by the governor. State lawmakers doubled funding for the Florida Forever land conservation program to $100 million. They also agreed to put $300 million from federal stimulus funding toward land conservation. Much of the money is to go to purchasing links in the wildlife corridor, providing a continuous path for animals to migrate.

Six of the seven projects, totaling 19,739 acres, are within the newly designated Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Florida Wildlife Corridor map
Angeline Meeks, Archbold Biological Station
Map of the Florida Wildlife Corridor acquisitions

“Land conservation is an essential tool for environmental protection,” said Gov. DeSantis in a prepared statement. “I thank the Florida Cabinet for their support in approving these critical land acquisitions and conservation easements which will conserve Florida’s wide array of natural lands, protect our wildlife, and provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.”

Mallory Lykes Dimmitt of Tampa, who heads the Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition, issued this statement:

“The Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition commends Governor Ron DeSantis and the Board of Trustees for their leadership in approving nearly 20,000 acres of land within the Florida Wildlife Corridor for conservation. This $50 million public investment will preserve key linkages throughout the Corridor, further protecting wildlife and safeguarding water supplies for residents and visitors alike. We hope these acquisitions and conservation easement agreements will close smoothly and swiftly."

These six parcels were approved for purchase:

  • Hardee Flatwoods, part of the Hardee Flatwoods Florida Forever Project, allows for the preservation of rare longleaf pine flatwoods, while also protecting the headwaters of Charlie Creek which flows into the Peace River.
Aerial photograph of the Hardee Flatwoods
Carlton Ward Jr. - Path of the Panther
Aerial photograph of the Hardee Flatwoods

  • Wedgworth Farms, part of the Kissimmee - St. Johns River Connector Florida Forever Project, will remain a working ranch while securing a vital linkage in the heart of the Corridor and uniting the state’s two largest watersheds
  • Alico Ranch, part of the Devil’s Garden Florida Forever Project,  will contribute to the expansion of the adjacent Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest, a core territory for the Florida panther and a path to the north from the Everglades 
  • Evergreen Timberco, part of the Coastal Headwaters Longleaf Forest Florida Forever Project, will expand the adjacent Blackwater River State Forest and restore the historic longleaf pine ecosystem, protecting the watershed for Coldwater Creek and Black Water River
  • Corrigan Ranch, part of the Corrigan Ranch Florida Forever Project, will expand Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and protect one of the largest known populations of the Florida grasshopper sparrow – the most endangered bird in North America
  • Cow Creek Ranch, part of the Rural & Family Lands Protection Program, will remain a working cattle ranch while protecting a corridor linkage on the east side of Lake Okeechobee
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