Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet invested more than $56 million to acquire seven properties across the state that will be designated for conservation.
The seven parcels total nearly 20,000 acres, more than 98% of which are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a recently designated network of connected lands that are crucial for wildlife habitat.
“Acquiring lands for conservation and recreation is a top priority for my administration,” said Governor DeSantis. “Conservation of these key properties will forever benefit water quality, rare wildlife habitats and corridor linkages, as well as support Florida’s ever-growing economy.”
“We are grateful to Governor DeSantis and the Cabinet for supporting these acquisitions,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “These projects will provide protection to imperiled species and connectivity for recreational and wildlife corridors and will support the preservation of Florida’s natural landscapes for future generations. We also appreciate our many agency and community partners who helped to make these projects possible.”
The addition of 768 acres within the Wolfe Creek Florida Forever Project in Santa Rosa County, which is part of an ongoing strategic partnership between federal, state, local and private entities.
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This acquisition expands public recreational opportunities and provides a corridor between Blackwater River State Forest and other state-owned conservation lands near Whiting Field Naval Air Station.
This property will be managed by the Florida Forest Service as an addition to Blackwater River State Forest.
Since 2010, the state has acquired nearly 11,000 acres within the Wolfe Creek Florida Forever project, and today’s approval will achieve substantial completion.
A 376-acre property within the St. Joe Timberland Florida Forever Project in Franklin County will be managed by the Florida Forest Service as an addition to Tate’s Hell State Forest.
The parcel will expand Tate’s Hell State Forest and will create access for wildlife to nearly two miles of streams that flow into the East Bay. It also features well-maintained forest cover along with a diverse habitat for native wildlife including the red-cockaded woodpecker, a federally recognized endangered species.
A conservation easement will cover 11,958 acres within the Horse Creek Ranch Florida Forever Project in DeSoto and Hardee counties. The Southwest Florida Water Management District is purchasing a conservation easement over Carlton Horse Creek Ranch’s remaining acreage, which will bring the total easement acreage to more than 16,000. The property is located in the Peace River Basin and will help to ensure the continued protection of the area’s drinking water supply. It also supports the area’s tourism industry and local commercial and sport fishing industry.
Conservation easements of 3,634 and 615 acres within the Kissimmee-St. Johns River Connector Florida Forever Project will create habitat and hydrological connections in Okeechobee County. These easements, near Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, are part of a key region of the Northern Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area and will benefit native, imperiled Florida wildlife such as the grasshopper sparrow, sandhill crane, mottled duck, wood stork and crested caracara.
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A conservation easement of 1,882 acres within the Fisheating Creek Ecosystem Florida Forever Project in Highlands County was acquired through the Florida Forest Service’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. This property is also located within the Buck Island Ranch Rural and Family Lands Protection Program project. Following the acquisition of this property, 67% of Buck Island Ranch’s total acreage will have been designated for conservation.
The final conservation easement covers 663 acres within the Lake Wales Ridge Florida Forever Project in Highlands County and was acquired through the Florida Forest Service’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. This property is adjacent to several conservation lands, including the Archbold Biological Station, Fisheating Creek/Smoak Groves conservation easement and Fisheating Creek/Lykes Brothers conservation easement.