In the North-Central Florida Forests landscape we work to preserve forest ecosystems, springsheds, and wildlife corridors for wide-ranging species like the Florida black bear. In the Florida panhandle our work is focused on conserving longleaf pine landscapes, and in the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge rare, native Florida dry prairie and rangelands are top priorities. These three landscapes: the North-Central Florida Forests, the Longleaf Pine ecosystem and the Northern Everglades are threatened by encroaching development, conversion to more intensive agricultural uses, and succession of landowners.
Wekiva to Ocala
In 2013, the Conservation Trust for Florida worked with private landowners and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to protect a key 156-acre parcel in the Wekiva to Ocala Greenway. Part of a tremendous conservation effort on the doorstep of metropolitan Orlando, this parcel’s primary value is in ensuring that Florida black bears can safely roam on a north-south corridor that will allow for improved genetic mixing and improved overall health of the bear population here.
The Conservation Trust facilitated this project by working with DEP and to secure the state’s purchase of the land in 2014. We are now working with additional landowners to preserve other portions of the greenway critical for bears, scrub species and aquifer recharge. These projects are an excellent example of how the Trust provides consultation and advice to landowners and helps them protect the land they love.
Matanzas to Ocala Conservation Corridor
The Conservation Trust for Florida has developed a conceptual framework for a network of protected lands that would join the Ocala National Forest to the Matanzas River and conservation lands in northern St. Johns County. The networked lands would protect water resources vital to local communities, timberlands important to the economy, and habitat critical to Florida black bears and other native wildlife. Both the St. Johns and the Flagler county commissions have supported the concept, and we are now cultivating the interest of the owners of more than 110,000 acres.
The Florida Forever Measures Evaluation (FFME) table identifies the degree to which the acreage in the M2OCC proposal contributes to the Florida Forever measures: 100% for Surface Water Protection; 99% for Aquifer Recharge; 45% for Functional Wetlands; 40% for Natural Floodplain Function; 97% for Ecological Greenways; 98% for FNAI Habitat Conservation Areas providing for Habitat Conservation Priorities; 99% for Ecological Greenways providing for Surface Water Protection and providing for Aquifer Recharge. It is notable that 100% of the proposal area is a Priority 1 for Ecological Greenways.