State OKs preservation of land in wildlife corridor
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WWSB) - The state has approved spending $46 million to conserve more than 21,000 acres in or near the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a network of connected lands and waters which sustains Florida’s best wild places and protects over 700 imperiled species, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.
The deal includes approximately 1,611 acres within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever project in Manatee County.
“These approvals mark a crucial moment in permanently protecting and creating a landscape corridor, providing safe habitat for wide-ranging and sensitive species,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton.
The Manatee County acquisition is composed of multiple tracts on both the north and south side of Myakka River State Park, officials said. The properties contain successional forest and improved pasture, which can provide habitat for several species including the crested caracara, Florida burrowing owl, gopher tortoise, Florida sandhill crane, southeastern American kestrel, Eastern indigo snake, Florida black bear, and Florida panther.
In January, Sarasota County purchased 25 acres of environmentally sensitive land along the Myakka River, near South River Road and South Tamiami Trail. The county purchased this land through the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program, designed to acquire and protect environmental land.
“The property connects to other greenspaces and serves as a significant wildlife corridor, and now will be protected and preserved in perpetuity,” said Nicole Rissler, director of Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources.
The 25 acres consists of tidal salt marsh, tidal strand, mangrove swamp, mesic and hydric flatwoods, and hydric hammock habitats.
Other land in the deal includes:
- The acquisition of 12,439 acres within the Telogia Creek Florida Forever project in Liberty County will conserve and protect habitat and increase linkages between public land and private conservation easements in the region. Preservation of the property will help ensure the continued protection of the area’s drinking water supply and will benefit native, imperiled Florida wildlife such as the gopher tortoise, Apalachicola alligator snapping turtle, and eastern indigo and Florida pine snakes. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will manage the property. This approval will complete this Florida Forever project.
- The acquisition of 1,506 acres within the Wolfe Creek Forest Florida Forever project in Santa Rosa County will expand public recreational opportunities and provide a corridor between Blackwater River State Forest and other state-owned conservation lands near Whiting Field Naval Air Station. 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. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and the Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscape.
- The acquisition of a conservation easement over 4,222 acres within the Big Bend Swamp/Holopaw Ranch Florida Forever project in Osceola County serves as an important linkage and buffer to existing conservation lands, including the Camp Lonesome conservation easements and the Tripe N Wildlife Management Area. Conservation of this property will also protect natural areas for rare or endangered Florida wildlife such as the Florida sandhill crane, Florida grasshopper sparrow, Sherman’s fox squirrel, red cockaded woodpecker, swallow tailed kite, and crested caracara. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
- The acquisition of a conservation easement over 1,285 acres within the Blue Head Ranch Florida Forever project in Highlands County will ensure 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 renowned for its high quality natural, hydrological and wildlife resources. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
In addition to these conservation purchase approvals, the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund also approved the 2023 Florida Forever Priority List and the Annual Florida Forever Work Plan for Fiscal Year 2023-24, which guide the annual expenditure of the Florida Forever funding.
The 2023 Florida Forever Priority List includes 129 projects containing more than 2.2 million acres. Ninety-seven of these projects are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The Annual Florida Forever Work Plan for Fiscal Year 2023-24 contains 56 projects of which 46 are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
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