Press Release: CTF Negotiates Acquisition of Silver Springs Forest

Central Florida’s Legendary Silver Springs may soon have a new 4,900-acre companion forest

Gainesville, Fla., Sept. 8, 2015 – The Conservation Trust for Florida, a nonprofit landtrust, has negotiated the acquisition of almost 4,900 acres directly north of Silver Springs State Park as part of its statewide strategy to protect land with high conservation value.

The property, called Silver Springs Forest, is within the Silver Springs watershed and will help recharge the Floridan Aquifer and reduce nutrient pollution entering the Silver and Oklawaha rivers. It will also provide a vital link between other protected lands, creating more habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for visitors to Florida’s parks.

Other benefits include hydrologic restoration that will result in water quality improvement and opportunities for water storage. The property provides habitat for the Florida black bear and other wildlife and links Indian Lake State Forest, Silver Springs State Park, the Cross Florida Greenway and District-managed lands to the Ocala National Forest.

“The Silver Springs springshed is a priority area for the [St. Johns Water Management] District, and the forest is located less than two miles from Silver Springs.” - Fred N. Roberts Jr., of Ocala, vice chairman of the District’s Governing Board.

“The Silver Springs springshed is a priority area for the [St. Johns Water Management] District, and the forest is located less than two miles from Silver Springs.” – Fred N. Roberts Jr., of Ocala, vice chairman of the District’s Governing Board.

The St. Johns River Water Management District will purchase the property from Rayonier Inc. and manage the land in accordance with the District’s mission to protect and ensure the sustainable use of water resources.

To complete the $11.5 million land deal and create Silver Springs Forest, the Conservation Trust for Florida must raise nearly $1 million to assist the District with acquisition costs. Read more about our fund raising project for the Silver Springs Forest.

“The Silver Springs Forest project is a huge step forward in the Conservation Trust for Florida’s effort to protect private forests close to Silver Springs,” said CTF President Susan Carr. “Partners are essential to the success of large conservation initiatives and, in this case, we are fortunate to have the District’s strong commitment to improving the health of Florida’s springs and Rayonier’s history of placing its most environmentally significant lands into conservation.”

“The Silver Springs Forest project is a huge step forward in the Conservation Trust for Florida’s effort to protect private forests close to Silver Springs,” – CTF President Susan Carr.

Funding for the project will come from the District, with additional financial support from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s springs protection program and from the Conservation Trust for Florida’s fundraising efforts.

“This partnership acquisition allows us to contemplate restoration projects that will benefit Silver Springs and provides a valuable opportunity to preserve and possibly enhance groundwater recharge close to the spring,” said Board Vice Chairman Fred N. Roberts Jr., of Ocala. “Also, linking thousands of acres of public lands will provide additional recreational opportunities in the region and creates a 20-mile migratory corridor that will enhance wildlife habitat.”

“Collaboration between state and local partners is key to reaching our restoration goals. DEP is proud to be a partner on this important acquisition that will reduce nitrate loading to Silver Springs, as well as provide vital aquifer recharge to benefit the springs’ flow,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson. “Addressing both water quality and quantity will further our efforts to protect this spring.”

“Rayonier is proud to have partnered with the District and CTF to make the conservation of this land permanent. Florida’s forests are important to the health of its aquifers, springs and rivers, and maintaining the health of these systems is critical to the vibrant future of Florida,” said Callie DeHaven, conservation manager for TerraPointe Services, Rayonier’s real estate services subsidiary. “Land, stewarded by Rayonier foresters for many years, provides a key piece in this conservation landscape connecting the state forest, state park, greenway and a national forest – an important win for Silver Springs and for all Florida citizens.”

“In 2006, Marion County supported the purchase of the Indian Lake State Forest as a critical step in the protection of Silver Springs,” said Marion County Commission Chairman Stan McClain. “Today, the county stands with CTF and our agency partners in celebrating the next phase of protecting the springs – a land purchase that will connect the currently isolated state forest with a vast network of public conservation lands for our area’s wildlife and world-class outdoor recreational opportunities.”

“Today, the county stands with CTF and our agency partners in celebrating the next phase of protecting the springs – a land purchase that will connect the currently isolated state forest with a vast network of public conservation lands for our area’s wildlife and world-class outdoor recreational opportunities.” – Marion County Commission Chairman Stan McClain

The protection of the property has national significance. The Silver Springs Forest project ranked fourth nationally out of more than 50 competing projects in the President’s 2016 budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Legacy Program, which supports state efforts to protect forestlands.