Sep 22, 2021 - News

Florida permanently preserves 20,000 greenbelt acres

A Florida grasshopper sparrow, the most endangered bird in North America, sings from an early morning perch.

A Florida grasshopper sparrow sings from an early morning perch at the Corrigan Ranch. The 4,381-acre property in Okeechobee County was approved for acquisition. Photo: Carlton Ward Jr./Path of the Panther

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet approved spending $50 million on land preservation deals for seven parcels covering almost 20,000 acres.

  • The money comes from the Florida Forever program and the deals either preserve wilderness lands by limiting public access or allow ranching operations to continue with rules against development.

Why it matters: The move protects important water supplies and preserves linkages through the Florida Wildlife Corridor, the greenbelt network that runs the length of the state and aims to provide safe migration routes for the Florida Panther and other animals.

  • Six of the seven parcels are in the Corridor.

Between the lines: This is the first time the governor and Cabinet have met since the unanimously-passed Florida Wildlife Corridor Act was signed into law, and the approval shows a bipartisan commitment to the environment.

Details: The Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition says the six deals address key conservation issues:

  • Hardee Flatwoods preserves rare longleaf pine flatwoods and the headwaters of Charlie Creek, tributary of the Peace River.
  • Wedgworth Farms remains a working ranch while securing a vital linkage in the heart of the Corridor to unite the state’s two largest watersheds.
  • Alico Ranch adds to the expansion of the adjacent Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest, a core territory for the Florida panther and a northern path from the Everglades.
  • Evergreen Timberco expands the adjacent Blackwater River State Forest, restores the historic longleaf pine ecosystem and protects the Coldwater Creek and Black Water River watersheds.
  • Corrigan Ranch expands Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and protects one of the largest known populations of the Florida grasshopper sparrow – the most endangered bird in North America.
  • Cow Creek Ranch remains a working cattle ranch while protecting a corridor linkage on the east side of Lake Okeechobee.
A map of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Map: Angeline Meeks/Archbold Biological Station

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