Governor and Cabinet Approve $103M for Conservation of Nearly 40,000 Acres Across the State
Florida - Wednesday May 24, 2023: Governor DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet Tuesday approved the investment of over $103 million to conserve nearly 40,000 acres across the state through the Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection programs.
Nearly all of the projects approved are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a designated network of connected lands that creates crucial linkages for wildlife habitat.
“Acquiring these key properties will forever benefit water quality, wildlife habitat, and corridor linkages," said the Governor, "and it will support Florida’s tourism and family agriculture sectors for generations to come.”
“These acquisitions help protect natural lands, provide linkages with other public lands, and safeguard areas needed for Florida’s wide-ranging wildlife," said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton.
The Florida Forever land acquisition approvals are:
- A conservation easement over 10,464 acres within the Fisheating 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. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
- 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 Wacissa Springshed 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. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and the Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscape, a component of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program.
- 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. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
- 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. The property will be managed by the Florida Forest Service as part of Indian Lake State Forest in partnership with the Ocala National Forest.
Since 2019, the state of Florida has invested $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 Governor and the Florida Cabinet also approved the acquisition of permanent agricultural land conservation easements over more than 18,000 acres of working agricultural lands 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.
More information on the acquisitions can be found here.