Investments include more than 17,000 acres within the Devil’s Garden Florida Forever Project in Hendry County bordering Big Cypress National Preserve
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Yesterday, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet approved a $141 million investment to expand Florida’s Wildlife Corridor by more than 42,000 acres through the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection programs. More than 17,000 acres border Big Cypress National Preserve and will advance Everglades restoration efforts.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor is a designated network of connected lands that creates crucial linkages for wildlife habitat. All projects also advance key protections of Florida’s water resources and recharge areas. The acquisitions also include 1,500 acres for military base buffering. The Governor and the Florida Cabinet additionally approved permanent agricultural land conservation easements within Florida’s Wildlife Corridor totaling more than 13,000 acres of family cattle operations.
“Today’s investments bolster our efforts to restore the Everglades and preserve important natural resources for future generations of Floridians,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “While we work to protect important resources, we are also ensuring that Florida’s working farms continue to thrive and support the state’s food security.”
“We appreciate Governor DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet for their unwavering support to preserve our landscapes and native habitats,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “Land conservation is critical to the protection of our natural landscapes and water resources which are integral for healthy ecosystems and wildlife, outdoor public recreation, and water supply.”
This calendar year alone, the Governor and Florida Cabinet approved the acquisition of over 100,000 acres. Since 2019, the state of Florida has invested $1.25 billion in land acquisition through the Florida Forever Program, including $850 million specifically for the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
About yesterday’s acquisition approvals:
- The acquisition of 17,229 acres within the Devil’s Garden Florida Forever Project in Hendry County is part of a phased, landscape-scale acquisition totaling over 82,000 acres. This is the largest acquisition purchase in the state since 2006. The natural systems of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and Big Cypress National Preserve are dependent on the water supplied from this area, and most of the Devil’s Garden project lies within the Western Everglades Restoration Project planning boundary. Numerous recent records of panther use and the presence of other rare and imperiled plants and animals have been noted throughout the property. The parcel will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as part of the Okaloacoochee Slough Wildlife Management Area. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
- The acquisition of 5,454 acres within the Natural Bridge Timberlands Florida Forever Project in Jefferson and Leon counties contributes to the completion of an expansive corridor of public conservation lands that promote ecological connectivity, conserve valuable habitat for rare plant and animal species, and protect sensitive cultural resources. Species documented on the property include the gopher tortoise and Florida black bear. This property will be managed by the Florida Forest Service as an addition to Plank Road State Forest. When this parcel is acquired, this Florida Forever project will be complete. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and the Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscape.
- The acquisition of 1,546 acres within the Wolfe Creek Forest Florida Forever Project in Santa Rosa County will protect defense assets near Naval Air Station Whiting Field and other state-owned conservation lands in Blackwater River State Forest. This acquisition is part of an ongoing strategic partnership between federal, state, local, and private entities and will be managed by the Florida Forest Service as an addition to Blackwater River State Forest. When this parcel is acquired, this Florida Forever project will be substantially complete. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscape.
- A conservation easement of 4,808 acres within the Red Hills Conservation Florida Forever Project in Leon County will protect surface waters and wetlands, support groundwater recharge functions for the region, and provide wildlife habitat and sustainable forestry. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and the Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscape.
The permanent agricultural land conservation easements approved yesterday include:
- 8,881 acres within the Adams Ranch Project in Osceola County, which is a fourth-generation cattle operation. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
- 4,490 acres within the Buck Island Ranch Project in Highlands County, which provides research opportunities for major universities, state and federal agencies, producers, and others to study the ecological, economic, and cultural value of Florida’s cattle ranches. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Learn more about yesterday’s acquisition approvals.
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