2023 Closes as Record Year for Conservation in Florida with 111K+ Acres Approved for Conservation

Governor DeSantis and Cabinet Approve 5,000+ acres for Conservation; ARC adds nearly 44,000 acres to Florida Forever Priority List.

Map by Angeline Meeks/Archbold Biological Station.

December 19, 2023 – Today’s conservation approvals at the Florida Cabinet meeting of 5,058 acres across three parcels of land brings the total number of acres approved for acquisition and conservation in 2023 to 111,059. These approvals come on the heels of the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council approving nearly 44,000 additional acres to be evaluated for the Florida Forever priority list.

So far, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has already invested $130 million in conservation efforts. By the end of the calendar year, the total expenditure dedicated to these efforts could reach $250 million. This substantial investment can be attributed, in part, to the recent processing bill passed earlier this year. The bill streamlines the closure of conservation properties valued at less than $5 million, eliminating the need for Cabinet approval and facilitating more efficient transactions.

“The Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation and our partners commend Governor DeSantis and the Cabinet for their exceptional leadership and action this year in protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor,” said Mallory Dimmitt, Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation CEO. “The dedicated efforts of the DEP team to shepherd and finalize numerous property transactions for the Florida Forever Program this year reflect their unwavering commitment to conservation. Additionally, we’re thrilled to witness the leadership of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, culminating in their most robust year of closings yet complemented by an impressive new and approved acquisitions list.”

These milestones were made possible by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Forever Program and Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. Properties specific to the December 19 Cabinet meeting are all located within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and were supported by the dedicated efforts of partner organizations and individuals including the landowners, Florida Conservation Group, Keith Fountain Law, and Saunders Real Estate.

  • Caloosahatchee Ecoscape Florida Forever Project Situated in Hendry County, this property spans 19,624 acres, with 12,271 acres either acquired or under agreement. The landscape is diverse, featuring xeric scrub, pine flatwoods, freshwater marshes, and improved pasture. This variety makes it a potential habitat for numerous imperiled species such as the crested caracara, Florida burrowing owl, Florida sandhill crane, Florida Black Bear, and the Florida Panther. Preserving critical Florida panther habitat, the property creates a significant natural link between the Caloosahatchee River to the north and the Okaloacoochee Slough to the south. This approval consists of a 1,425.5 acre Conservation Easement from Ferguson-House Farms, Inc.
  • Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever Project encompasses multiple tracts on both sides of the Myakka River State Park in DeSoto County, forming a vital link between state, county, water management district, and non-profit conservation lands in Southwest Florida. Its primary goal is to expand and buffer diverse habitats, safeguard land with rare plant and animal species, and protect the natural functions of land, water, and wetland systems. This initiative ensures an ample water supply for both natural systems and the state’s citizens. The 1,531-acre property, known as the Myakka Island Conservation Corridor Ranches, is a working cattle ranch contributing to a landscape corridor. It features a mix of upland areas, improved pasture, mesic flatwoods, wetland depression marshes, and wet prairie, serving as habitat for various species such as crested caracara, gopher tortoise, Florida sandhill crane, Florida burrowing owl, and the Southeastern American Kestrel. Positioned along a watershed divide, the property aids in water quality and quantity needs for the region, aligning with the Florida Ecological Greenways Network’s wildlife corridor. This approval is for a 1,531 Acres conservation easement from 4L’s Ranch.
  • Syfrett Ranch Rural and Family Lands Protection Program project in Highlands and Glades County works as a cow-calf operation and features a diverse landscape of improved and semi-improved pasture, interspersed with hardwood and large cabbage tree hammocks. The ranch is equipped with a comprehensive drainage and irrigation system for flood stabilization, facilitated by various assistance programs. Positioned in proximity to closed easements, wetlands reserve programs, and water management district property, the proposed rural lands protection easement aims to preserve the integrity of working landscapes. Syfrett Ranch holds potential as habitat for the Florida burrowing owl and crested caracara, with sightings of other species like Florida sandhill cranes, Osceola turkey, white-tailed deer, Sherman’s fox squirrel, bald eagles, and the Florida panther. This approval is to protect 2,101 Acres from Syfrett Ranch, Inc.

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.

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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 @floridawildlifecorridor.