Florida Construction News staff writer
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet have announced $141 million to expand the Wildlife Corridor by more than 42,000 acres, including 17,000 acres bordering Big Cypress National Preserve. Funding will also go to Everglades restoration efforts.
“Today’s investments bolster our efforts to restore the Everglades and preserve important natural resources for future generations of Floridians,” DeSantis said. “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.”
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.
“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,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton.
- 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. It’s the largest acquisition purchase in the state since 2006.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 and 4,490 acres within the Buck Island Ranch Project in Highlands County.