Corridor Conservation is Gaining Ground
Governor DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet have approved conservation acquisitions within several Florida Forever projects so far this year adding up to more than 14,000 of newly protected habitat. 8,000 of those acres are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Most of the acreage was protected using conservation easements, which allows the land to stay under private ownership, while ensuring it retains its ecological value. Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program are important programs aimed at protecting land important for wildlife, aquifer recharge, water filtration, flood storage and a host of other public benefits.
Misty sunrise over Gold Head State Park in the O2O section of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
FDEP purchased 5,777 acres of high quality habitat within the Florida Panther expansion zone north of the Caloosahatchee River. This Orange Hammock Ranch purchase falls within the priority 3 category of the Florida Ecological Greenways Network, and is an excellent addition.
A rich reindeer lichen carpet covers the forest floor in Camp Blanding, a critical link in the O2O section of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
A 3,562 acre conservation easement was purchased by the FDEP within the Florida Wildlife Corridor in January. This fantastic addition is owned by Ben and Louann Williams, and is part of the Williams Wetland Preserve Tract. The property is home to at least 45 reptile and amphibian species, including gopher tortoises and the largest population of spotted turtles in Florida. The North Florida Land Trust was instrumental in helping secure this Conservation Easement, and is a key partner in corridor conservation. This area of Florida’s Wildlife Corridor is known as the O2O as it is the section connecting the Osceola National Forest with the Ocala National Forest.
Finally two other two conservation easements were acquired in the panhandle totaling approximately 4,569 acres. These falls within the Seven Runs Creek Florida Forever Project in Walton County, and represent important conservation connections between Eglin Air Force Base and the Choctawhatchee Wildlife Management Area.
Ben Williams points out a cluster of carnivorous pitcher plants in a bog on the recently conserved Williams Wetland Preserve.