Clearwater businessman gives the largest-ever donation to the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation
Stu Sjouwerman has given $2.5 million to the corridor — the latest in a string of donations to environmental and animal causes.
A Clearwater businessman who made it big as the founder of an internet security firm is making big waves in environmental circles.
Stu Sjouwerman (pronounced Showerman) founded KnowBe4, one of the world's largest online security platforms. He's now reinvested $2.5 million with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, which aims to keep the state's wild places connected before they're gone. It's the largest donation ever to the corridor.
Sjouwerman, who was born in the densely-populated Netherlands, owns property near Brooksville and occasionally visits green places nearby that are targeted to be part of the corridor.
"You see the developments slowly but surely encroach on the green space, and then you come to the realization if you don't do something about it - kind of now - it slowly disappears," he said. "And once it's gone, it's too late.''
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation helps to preserve a network of interconnected wild areas, from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and across the Nature Coast to Florida's panhandle. Many of the connections between these larger areas are in urban or suburban spaces that are threatened by development.
"The Florida panther is definitely under pressure," Sjouwerman said. "They need their territory, their roaming space. And when the wildlife corridor people told us that there were a series of bottlenecks that were essentially going to be shut down, you create ecosystem cul-de-sacs, and that is very bad for those animals. So that's why we decided to help."
Through his family foundation, Sjouwerman and his wife, Rebecca, have also given $2 million to help preserve the Gladys Douglas Hackworth property in Dunedin. The self-described "massive pet lovers" also gave $5 million to build a new pet adoption center at the Humane Society of Pinellas.