Major Progress for Wakulla Caves Protection

We have reached a milestone in our efforts to protect a 717-acre property of global significance in Wakulla County!

Divers exploring Meetinghouse Cavern, one of nine karst sinks located on the property. Photo by: Andreas Hagberg

Divers exploring Meetinghouse Cavern, one of nine karst sinks located on the property. Photo by: Andreas Hagberg

Conservation Florida is excited to announce that we have reached a milestone in our efforts to protect a 717-acre property of global significance in Wakulla County.

With its partners, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Forest Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, Conservation Florida has made serious progress toward the protection of the property.

We have successfully negotiated with the landowner, John Ferrell, to reach an acceptable purchase price, made an offer, and now have the property under an assignable option contract! With this signed agreement in place between Conservation Florida and the landowner, the project can now advance to the next phase of protection – funding. 

We have already secured a commitment from the U.S. Forest Service through its Forest Legacy program for $2.54 million toward the protection of the “Wakulla Caves” property, ranked #6 nationally for federal fiscal year 2018.

Aerial view of Meetinghouse Cavern.

Aerial view of Meetinghouse Cavern.

Next, on July 25, the project will be presented to the Florida Cabinet. The Cabinet will decide whether to accept the contract and fund the acquisition through the state’s Florida Forever land acquisition program. If approved, the option agreement to purchase the property will be assigned to the State for closing. 

Our director, Traci Deen, will have the opportunity speak to the Cabinet during the meeting to further advocate for protection of this incredible project.

If the State opts to acquire the property, it will be managed by DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks as an addition to Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. 

The Wakulla Caves property is located within the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone Florida Forever project boundary. Its protection is key to creating a landscape-scale conservation corridor between Apalachicola National Forest and Wakulla Springs State Park. Because of its location two miles north of the State Park, Wakulla Caves’ protection will also protect the springshed of Wakulla Springs. 

Wakulla Springs is a National Natural Landmark and one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. The land also provides essential aquifer recharge benefits to the Wakulla Springs springshed and the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve along St. Mark’s shores in the Apalachee Bay.

The Woodville Karst cave crayfish are only found in the Wakulla-Leon Sinks Cave System.

The Woodville Karst cave crayfish are only found in the Wakulla-Leon Sinks Cave System.

Acquisition of Wakulla Caves by the State via its Florida Forever program would also permanently protect at least twelve karst sinks located on the property. The sinks provide entry into a vast underground cave and tunnel network, making it a world-class cave diving destination. 

In addition to its rare water features, Wakulla Caves contains habitat for species found only in the region, including the Woodville Karst cave crayfish. It is also home to longleaf pine ecosystem species such as the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, and Southeastern fox squirrel.   

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Conservation Florida