Florida approves $103 million to acquire conservation land

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florida conservation lands
Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) Managed Conservation Lands Dec 10, 2015 (Last modified Feb 16, 2019) Uploaded by Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative

Florida Construction News staff writer

More than $103 million will be used to preserve 40,000 acres across the state through the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection programs. Several approved projects are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a designated network of connected lands that creates crucial linkages for wildlife habitat.

“I want to thank the Florida Cabinet for supporting our great state’s continuing land conservation legacy,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement. “Acquiring these key properties will forever benefit water quality, wildlife habitat, and corridor linkages, and it will support Florida’s tourism and family agriculture sectors for generations to come.”

Acquisitions include:

  • A conservation easement over 10,464 acres within the Fish eating Creek Ecosystem Florida Forever Project in Glades County will connect this property to other conservation lands in the region, including the Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area and Platt Branch Wildlife Environmental Area. This area is designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Primary Dispersal/Expansion Area for the endangered Florida panther.
  • A conservation easement over 6,929 acres within the Avalon Florida Forever Project in Jefferson County will provide long-term surface and groundwater protections in the Red Hills region, including the WacissaSpringshed and Wacissa River. The forests on this property provide habitat for the Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, southern fox squirrel, Bachman’s sparrow, and yellow fringed orchid.
  • A conservation easement over 3,176 acres within the Bluefield to Cow Creek Florida Forever Project in St. Lucie County will further the environmental and hydrological health of the Florida Everglades Ecosystem and provide and enhance the habitat of numerous rare and imperiled species. This region of the state is included in the Indian River Lagoon – South Restoration Plan, which is a component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

The acquisition of 497 acres within the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem Florida Forever Project in Marion County will preserve one of the largest tracts of old growth longleaf pine in Florida, some of which are estimated to be more than 300 years old.

It also provides critical habitat for the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise, sand skink, Florida sandhill crane, wood stork, and Florida scrub-jay.

Since 2019, the state of Florida has approved $600 million for land acquisition through the Florida Forever Program, including $300 million specifically for the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and acquired nearly 175,000 acres, which is almost four times more than that of the previous four years.

The acquisition of permanent agricultural land conservation easements over more than 18,000 acres of working agricultural lands was also approved through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rural and Family Lands Protection program, including:

  • 3,496 acres within the Cow Creek Ranch Project in St. Lucie County, which is adjacent to the approved acquisition through the Florida Forever Program. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
  • 1,945 acres within the Natural Bridge Project in Walton County, which will sustain a unique longleaf pine timber operation, as well as provide a buffer for Natural Bridge Creek. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

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