This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet approved the investment of more than $17.7 million to conserve more than 3,500 acres across the state.
The five properties stretch from Nassau County south to Charlotte County and protect or buffer lands within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a recently designated network of connected lands that is crucial for wildlife habitat. They also complete two Florida Forever projects.
“Just last week, I signed Executive Order 23-06 directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to continue its momentum and conserve natural lands through land acquisition,” said DeSantis. “I am glad Florida is pursuing these valuable acquisitions and completing a number of Florida Forever projects. We will continue to prioritize protecting and restoring Florida’s natural resources for current and future generations.”
“We want to thank Governor DeSantis and the Cabinet for supporting state land conservation goals through these important acquisitions,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Sec. Shawn Hamilton. “Investing in these properties helps increase the protection of Florida’s unique natural landscapes and wildlife habitats.”
About this week’s approvals:
The acquisition of 565 acres within the Tiger Island/Little Tiger Island Florida Forever project in Nassau County will provide further protections for one of the highest nesting concentrations of Worthington’s marsh wren and MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow. It also provides critical habitat for wintering populations of the piping plover. This project also protects important cultural resources that document pottery-making primitive populations who inhabited these coastal islands as early as the second millennium B.C. This property will be managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as an addition to Fort Clinch State Park. This approval will complete this Florida Forever project.
The acquisition of 8.68 acres within the Charlotte Harbor Estuary Florida Forever project in Charlotte County will help preserve natural areas around the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, which is one of the largest and most productive estuaries in Florida and supports a vital recreational and commercial fishery. Conservation of this highly developable parcel will also help safeguard water quality in the Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve. This property will be managed by DEP as an addition to Don Pedro Island State Park and will expand boating opportunities to the park from Lemon Bay.
A conservation easement over 2,529 acres within the Triple Diamond Florida Forever project in Okeechobee County will, along with existing conservation lands, contribute to a large, landscape-sized protection area of more than 200,000 acres. Known as the Triple Diamond Ranch, this working ranch has high hydrological value and is situated within the Kissimmee River Basin, the headwaters of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. The property is also within the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape. This approval will complete this Florida Forever project.
A conservation easement over 287 acres within the Osceola Pine Savannas Florida Forever project in Osceola County will protect natural areas for wildlife such as the sandhill crane, wood stork, crested caracara, and the federally endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow from encroaching residential development. Known as Collins Ranch, this property shares a boundary with Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management Area. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
A conservation easement over 135 acres within the Rainbow River Corridor Florida Forever project in Marion County will protect most of the undeveloped private land remaining along the Rainbow River and is vital for the protection of water quality and ecosystems along the river. This property serves as an important linkage and buffer to existing conservation lands, including Rainbow Springs State Park, the city of Dunnellon’s Blue Run of Dunnellon Park, and the Rainbow River. This property is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
In addition to these conservation purchase approvals, the governor and the Florida Cabinet also approved the sale of the Gore Building in Fort Lauderdale to Namdar Group LLC for $62.6 million. This non-conservation property was determined to be surplus and offered for sale by DEP through the competitive sealed bid process. Funds received from the sale of this property will be deposited into the state’s Architecture and Incidental Trust Fund to support the operation of the facilities development activities of the Department of Management Services.
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