Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation

Partner Efforts Lead to 36,091 Acres Approved for Corridor Conservation

 Partner Efforts Lead to 36,091 Acres Approved for Corridor Conservation       

Florida Governor & Cabinet shows commitment to conservation with $218M spend for Corridor linkages 

  

March 26, 2024 – During the first Governor’s Cabinet meeting of 2024 today, they approved five properties totaling 36,091 acres of the Florida Wildlife Corridor for permanent protection— a win for Florida’s ecology, economy and residents. All of the properties approved for acquisition or conservation easement during the March 26 Cabinet meeting were made possible through collaboration from public and private funds and through the state’s Rural and Family Lands Protection and the Florida Forever Programs. 

Today’s acquisitions and conservation easements total over $218 million. Among these, $122 million comes from the dedicated funding of $850 million allocated last year for the Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor and Caloosahatchee-Big Cypress Corridor—crucial for protecting Everglades and panther habitats in Southwest Florida. In addition to protecting panthers, many of these lands are working agricultural lands that provide habitat and connectivity for a wide range of imperiled species and plants, including the black bear, gopher tortoise, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, bald eagles and more. These protected lands fall within Hendry, Collier, Polk, Marion, Osceola, and Seminole counties.  

  Conservation easements continue to be our most effective tool in protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor for future generations thanks to the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and Florida Forever,” said Mallory Dimmitt, chief executive officer of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation “It’s going to take protecting 10,000 acres per month to save at-risk, high priority areas of the Corridor by 2030 and these approvals are a great start to the year showing that our partners’ efforts are on track.” 

Properties specific to the March 26 Cabinet meeting were supported by the dedicated efforts of partner organizations, including the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, The Nature Conservancy, Keith Fountain Law, Saunders Real Estate, Axel Real Estate, and the voluntary commitment of the landowners. 

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

  • An acquisition of 25,039 acres within the Caloosahatchee-Big Cypress Corridor through DEP’s Florida Forever project with CDC Land Investments, Inc, Collier Land Holdings, LTD, and Cow Bone Slough, LLLP located within Hendry and Collier. The various parcels enhance connectivity between the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Big Cypress National Preserve, linking to Dinner Island Wildlife Management Area, Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest, and the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Wildlife and Environmental Area. This connectivity of uplands and wetlands, combined with other conservation lands, safeguards the state’s water resources and prevents habitat fragmentation. Protecting these critical habitats and agricultural lands ensures safe passage for imperiled species like the Florida panther, maintains agricultural functionality threatened by development, and supports the Florida Wildlife Corridor as a primary and secondary zone for the federally endangered Florida panther. 
  •  A conservation easement of 5,269 acres in Marion County, a project of FDACS Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) from Rainey Pasture LLC. Rainey Pasture is used as a working land for timber production within Marion County. The property is in the Silver Springs Watershed and adjacent to the Ocklawaha River, providing several miles of river protection that is part of the Ocklawaha River Aquatic Preserve that has been designated as an Outstanding Florida Waterway. The land provides habitat for Florida black bears, gopher tortoises, bald eagles, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and more.
  •  A conservation easement of 3,080 acres in Osceola County project of FDACS RFLPP from Earl Partin Canoe Creek Ranch, Inc. Heart Bar Ranch will continue to be a working cattle ranch managed by 5th and 6th generation family farmers. The property is also used for other agricultural activities including timber, wildlife management, and seed business. The land is primarily made up of pine flatwoods, forested wetlands, and herbaceous wetlands. Camp Lonesome Creek winds though 4 miles of the ranch and then flows into Canoe Creek. Heart Bar Ranch provides protection to water resources of the Northern Everglades watershed and provides habitat to burrowing owls, gopher tortoises, Eastern indigo snakes, Florida scrub-jays, and many other wildlife.
  • An acquisition of 1,361 acres in Seminole County Florida Forever project from Edward Yarborough Ranches, Inc., a Florida corporation, James W. Yarborough and Frances M. Yarborough, and James Yarborough as trustee of the JWL QTIP Trust, and James Yarborough as trustee of the JWL Residuary Trust. Yarborough Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for multiple generations. The property is adjacent to Little Big Econ State Forest and other conservation lands. The land will be managed as an addition to Little Big Econ State Forest by Seminole County providing public access and recreational opportunities. The land is also within the Big Econlockhatchee Drainage Basin and the Geneva Freshwater Lens, which supplies drinking water to residents of Seminole County.  
  • An acquisition of 1,342 acres in Polk County within the Lake Hatchineha Watershed Florida Forever project from Creek Legacy Ranch, LLC, Creek Ranch Mitigation Bank,  LLC, and Creek Ranch, LLC. Creek Ranch was used as working cattle ranch and horse farm. The property is adjacent to Lake Hatchineha and is part of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, part of the headwaters of the Everglades. The property will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The land provides crucial habitat and connectivity for many species including gopher tortoise, caracara, the Florida scrub lizard, Florida black bear, and Florida panther. 

  

 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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