Wildlife habitat in Franklin and Wakulla counties were secured as protected conservation land

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  1. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Governor, Cabinet approve land buys in Franklin and Wakulla for conservation
    KARL ETTERS | TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT
    May 28, 2020

    More than 17,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat in Franklin and Wakulla counties were secured as protected conservation land by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet on Thursday.

    Stretching from Dickerson Bay to Bald Point and extending west to an area known as the St. Teresa Bluffs and Tate’s Hell State Forest, on the northern side of U.S. Highway 98, the project brings more than 6,200 acres of wetland and almost 11,000 acres of upland into conservation lands.

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    A freshwater pond inside an area called the St. Teresa Bluffs, which was acquired Thursday as protected conservation land using Florida Forever funding.

    The $43 million move, purchased using Florida Forever funding designated for such tracts of land, is being lauded by environmental groups who say the acquisition ensures the area’s ecosystem remains healthy.

    “We are celebrating today!” said Apalachee Audubon President Peter Kleinhenz of the St. Teresa Bluffs section. “This acquisition is an important connection for water and wildlife in our part of the Panhandle ... We can’t wait to explore it!”

    The Nature Conservancy called the acquisition a "landmark conservation deal" that will leave an ecosystem sought after for protection for more than 30 years in the hands of conservation for generations to come.

    "The Nature Conservancy in Florida has worked for more than 10 years to protect the 17,000+ acre Dickerson Bay property in Franklin and Wakulla counties, and due to its immense conservation value, we have pledged over $2 million to help secure this win," said TNC Executive Director Temperince Morgan. "Investment of Florida Forever funds in these communities will secure a linchpin for vital habitat in the Big Bend that connects state and federal lands in a ribbon of conservation. It also offers the potential for ecotourism, unprecedented public access to nature-based recreation, and the economic development related to these activities in the region."

    The creeks, rivers and marshes feed the Ochlockonee Bay watershed and flow into Alligator Harbor, both crucial to the area’s seafood and tourism industries, as well as a number of endangered and rare species.

    Specifically, they provide habitat for Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, wood storks and bald eagles. Upland portions are home to fox squirrels, gopher tortoises and contain fresh water sources that feed into the surrounding tidal marshes.

    The St. Teresa Bluffs portion has 17 miles of Gulf of Mexico frontage, six miles along the Ochlockonee Bay and more than eight miles along the Ochlockonee River. It borders the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and connects to Tate’s Hell, Bald Point State Park and Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve.

    Governor, Cabinet approve land buys in Franklin and Wakulla for conservation
     
  2. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    The Nature Conservancy in Florida

    “The Nature Conservancy in Florida has worked for more than 10 years to protect the 17,000+ acre Dickerson Bay property in Wakulla and Franklin counties and due to its immense conservation value, we have pledged over $2 million to help secure this win. Today we congratulate Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet for voting to support the acquisition of this precious jewel for the citizens of Florida. Investment of Florida Forever funds in these communities will secure a linchpin for vital habitat in the Big Bend that connects state and federal lands in a ribbon of conservation. It also offers the potential for ecotourism, unprecedented public access to nature-based recreation, and the economic development related to these activities in the region. During these challenging times, people are increasingly aware of how vital nature is to our physical, mental and emotional health. It is encouraging that the Governor and Cabinet recognize the importance of conservation to the health of our great state.” -- Temperince Morgan, TNC Florida executive director

    The Nature Conservancy in Florida

    Learn more:
    Landmark Conservation Deal Ensures Climate Resilience and Water Quality in Florida’s Big Bend

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