Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation

Florida’s Commitment to Corridor Conservation Leads to the Protection of 12,128 More Acres

Governor & Cabinet Approve Four Properties for Conservation in DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee 

Map by Angeline Meeks/Live Wildly Foundation

June 12, 2024— The State of Florida has taken another meaningful step to protect lands within the Florida Wildlife Corridor by approving the permanent conservation of more than 12,000 acres across four properties.  This decision, made by the Florida Governor and his Cabinet, is a $40.8 million investment that safeguards vital ecosystems, working lands, and wildlife habitats within the Corridor. 

The properties approved for acquisition or conservation easement during the June 12 Cabinet meeting are funded by the Florida Forever Program at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). 

“Today’s approvals are a testament to our collective commitment to protecting wild Florida through Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and to the importance of securing Sentinel Lands,” said Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation CEO Mallory Dimmitt. “Our state leadership’s collaboration with private landowners, Florida Conservation Group, and Keith Fountain Law made this effort possible and it continues to give me hope for the protection of the remaining eight million acres of the Corridor.” 

The Florida Wildlife Corridor is a critical ecological network of 18 million acres that connects existing conservation lands to private agricultural lands, providing a pathway for wildlife to move and thrive. Nearly 10 million acres are already under permanent protection and by expanding the protected areas within the Corridor, the state is taking a proactive approach to ensuring the long-term sustainability of its natural resources. This decision by Governor DeSantis and his Cabinet demonstrates their commitment to environmental stewardship and the conservation of wild Florida.  

The parcels in the Florida Wildlife Corridor approved during the June Cabinet meeting include: 

  • A conservation easement in Highlands County of 1,977 acres within the Heartland Wildlife Corridor through DEP’s Florida Forever project from Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch, LLC. The property is a working cattle ranch adjacent to a complex of conservation easements, and will help complete a wildlife corridor from Avon Park to the north to Lake Okeechobee to the southeast.  The headwaters of Fisheating Creek, the only free-flowing water course to Lake Okeechobee, are located on the Ranch that will also protect a variety of plants and animal species, which include common wild pine, swallow-tailed kite, Florida black bear, Florida sandhill crane, Florida panther, crested caracara, and southeastern fox squirrel.  
  • A conservation easement in Hardee County of 2,650 acres within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever project from Quail Creek Farms, Inc. The property is a working cattle ranch that protects a system of conservation areas, establishing a connection among state, county, water management district, and non-profit conservation lands in Southwest Florida and provides critical habitat for imperiled species such as the gopher tortoise and Florida sandhill crane. It also helps to protect the water quality of the Myakka River, which is an essential source of freshwater for the Charlotte Harbor Estuary and ensures that sufficient quantities of water will be available to meet the current and future needs of Florida citizens.   
  • An acquisition in DeSoto county of 5,700 acres within the Deer Creek Ranch Florida Forever project from Deer Creek Ranch, LLC and Deer Creek Family Ranch, LLC; The property is a working cattle ranch that lies within the Peace River Watershed and contains a section of Tiger Bay Slough and Myrtle Slough, which flows off Halls Tiger Bay Ranch and Bright Hour Watershed. These tributaries help to provide drinking water for the City of Punta Gorda before eventually meeting the Peace River and flowing into eastern Charlotte Harbor.  Because of this protection of the Ranch will contribute to the surface and drinking water quality of the Peace River watershed. The subject property contains a mixture of upland areas that include improved pasture along with mesic flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods, and wet flatwoods, which provides habitat for a variety of imperiled species such as Florida scrub jays, Florida burrowing owls, and sandhill cranes.  
  • An acquisition in Okeechobee county of 1,801 acres within the Clemons Oak Creek project of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) from Clemons Oak Creek, LLC. Current agricultural activities include a cow/calf operation, row crops for watermelon, and wildlife management. The property contains at least two creeks that drain into the Kissimmee River and much of the property serves as the headwaters for Oak Creek. Additionally, the South Florida Water Management District has flowage easements over the two creeks that run north and south. Clemons Oak Creek is located within the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape, used for training by all branches of the U.S. military as well as military from outside the U.S., and would allow for the low flying approach to the range for defensive and humanitarian training maneuvers.  

To help understand the importance of these land parcels and visualize the land, Wildpath has developed a media kit with photos, video footage, and maps representing the newly approved properties. Please feel free to download and use these materials. 

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 @floridawildlifecorridor.

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