More than 280,000 acres conserved since 2019
Tallahassee, Fla. (December 21, 2022) — Momentum continues building to protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Since 2019, more than 280,000 acres have been approved through the Florida Forever program. In 2022 alone, more than 80,000 acres of Florida Wildlife Corridor lands were added to the Florida Forever Priority List — a crucial step toward connecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Florida Forever is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program and a blueprint for conserving Florida’s natural and cultural heritage. When lands are added to its priority list, they have a stronger chance of being permanently safeguarded. The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, passed in 2021, not only offers a potential funding stream for purchase of these priority lands, but it also raises awareness of the opportunity and urgency to protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
“We are invigorated to see such energy behind protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor. With predictable/consistent funding more landowners are willing to participate in conservation. A wide variety of stakeholders including – government leaders, landowners, industry leaders and recreational users recognize that Florida’s wild is fragile, precious, and worthy of protection.” – Mallory Dimmitt, Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation
The Florida’s Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) is responsible for the evaluation, selection, and ranking of state land acquisition projects on the Florida Forever Priority List. This week, ARC ended the last meeting of the year by designating a total of 104,874 acres as worthy of special consideration by adding the lands to the 2023 Florida Forever priority list. Of those, all but approximately 20,000 acres are located within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Back in 2021, only 33,289 acres were added to the Priority List. Looking at 2020, before the passage of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, that number was only 44,804. The jump in 2022 can be attributed to increased awareness and funding made possible through partners and the passing of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act. The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act was passed with bi-partisan support and was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on July 1, 2021, highlighting the importance of connecting Florida’s green spaces, rather than allowing them to be fragmented by new highways, housing, and infrastructure. The restoration and connectivity of Florida’s landscape are not only beneficial for wildlife, but also provide many new opportunities for recreational and transportation endeavors.
“On behalf of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, I would like to thank the many partner organizations who have been working for decades to preserve and connect conservation in Florida. It is an honor to see the legislation we worked tirelessly to pass be implemented and to witness the expansive impact it has on our state and the increased awareness it is bringing to land conservation programs like Florida Forever,” Dimmitt added.
The 2022, lands named to the priority list include 23,255 acres of mostly basin swamp and wetlands in Gilchrist County, where the rare gopher tortoise, Florida mouse, Florida black bear and bald eagle have been documented. (Source) Other lands prioritized in 2022 are scattered across the state, including parcels of acreage in Okeechobee, Sumter, Osceola, Glades, Highlands, DeSoto, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Martin, Dixie, Baker, Hardee, Suwannee, Lafayette, Columbia, Franklin, Bay, Levy and Santa Rosa counties.
For more information the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, visit www.floridawildlifecorridor.org.
“The protection of Florida’s natural resources which are abundant within the Florida Wildlife Corridor is more important than ever before. Florida is currently the third-most-populous state in the U.S. with new residents relocating in record numbers. To be successful, we have to balance the impacts of development with the need to protect lands which, once lost, are gone forever.” – Julie Morris, Director, Florida Conservation Group.
“Florida’s large landowners feel a strong connection to the land and are passionate about preserving them for future generations. Together with public and private partners, we have been able to secure conservation easements on more than 150,000 acres thanks, in large part, to donations made by these conservation-minded private landowners.” – Shane Wellendorf, Conservation Coordinator, Tall Timbers.
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About the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation champions a collaborative campaign to permanently connect, protect and restore the Florida Wildlife Corridor – a statewide network of connected lands and waters that supports wildlife and people. The organization uses rich storytelling, rooted in science, to heighten the visibility of the Florida Wildlife Corridor and inspire protection of the missing links in the Corridor. To learn more, visit floridawildlifecorridor.org or connect on social media @FL_wildcorridor.