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Fl Wildlife Corridor Expedition
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.

The Florida Wildlfife Corridor Expedition on the Withlacoochee

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.

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Credit Robin Sussingham

The boaters set out from Silver Lake, on the Hernando-Sumter county line, and launched directly under an I-75 overpass. It may have seemed like an odd location for a wilderness expedition, but organizer Dimmitt said that's typical of Florida's wild areas.

"The first thing today, we're passing right under Interstate 75. It's amazing how you can feel like you way out there, but only an hour away and so close to everything. We keep saying, so much of the Florida wildlife corridor is hiding in plain sight of all Floridians."

Bob Bendick, the Gulf of Mexico director of the Nature Conservancy, was paddling with the group. To Bendick, a lot is riding on this expedition.

"The jury is still out on the future of Florida's environment," he said. "That's why this expedition is so important, because the key to saving natural Florida is to connect these corridors."

Bendick says he's hopeful that the expedition will capture the imagination of people across the state. He said the river illustrates what is at stake. "This is a beautiful floodplain forest," he said, "a lot of which has been lost, and there's so little of the old growth cypress left. You can see the ghosts of the old trees lying on the forest, but a lot of new trees coming up. In a hundred years, it will again be a beautiful cypress forest unique to this part of the country."