Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which went into effect Thursday, July 1.
The legislation will dedicate $300 million to preserve migratory routes within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which includes North Florida Land Trust’s Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor project.
It will also commit $100 million to Florida Forever, the state’s land conservation program.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor includes more than 18 million acres of land, 8 million of which remain unprotected. The O2O wildlife corridor is a critical component of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
North Florida Land Trust leads a partnership made up of public and private organizations dedicated to conservation and land management along the O2O, which is a 1.6 million-acre corridor of public and private lands that connect the Ocala and Osceola national forests.
“The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act and the funding for Florida Forever is a huge step forward for conservation and for the work we do to conserve environmentally sensitive lands within the O2O and in other Florida Forever project areas,” said Jim McCarthy, North Florida Land Trust president.
He said conservation was important for not only protecting and preserving wildlife habitats but also for protecting water quality in the state.
“This state funding provides an opportunity for conservation that may not have been possible otherwise,” said McCarthy. “We thank the governor and all our representatives who were instrumental in passing this legislation.”
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act will also connect land needed for flood and sea-level rise resiliency and will protect areas that provide vital drinking water sources for most Floridians.
North Florida Land Trust said it will be working closely with its partners to continue the mission to preserve lands within the O2O. Those partners include the state DEP’s Division of State Lands, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Camp Blanding, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, U.S. Forest Service and county governments.
The money dedicated to the Florida Forever program could also be instrumental in preserving 541 acres in Marion County known as Big Pine Preserve. The land is part of the Longleaf Pine Ecosystems Florida Forever project area which makes it eligible for funding through the Florida Forever program in 2022.
The nonprofit land conservation organization is also working with private timberland company Weyerhaeuser on a possible sale of a conservation easement on 50,000 acres of timberland within the O2O.
North Florida Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to protect the natural resources, historic places and working lands (farms and ranches) throughout north Florida. For further information, go to nflt.org.
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