Land Protection

 

 

From the Florida Panhandle to the Everglades Headwaters north of Lake Okeechobee, our projects are shaping Florida’s Conservation Future. In fact, the large, statewide projects we target have global significance and will help protect some of the rarest habitats and species in the world. 

Our work creates, expands and links conservation lands. We focus on projects that provide habitat for the survival of Florida’s iconic species, recharge drinking water or benefit other hydrologic functions, offer outdoor recreation, and other community benefits. We also help landowners with working ranches, farms and timberlands to keep their land in production for generations to come. We work statewide to serve communities that are not served or are underserved by local land conservation organizations. 

 
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What We Can Do

Land conservation projects are rarely straightforward. There are often many twists and turns along the way that call for flexibility and ingenuity. We specialize in helping landowners navigate the land protection process and finding the best solutions to meet their needs. We take pride in our excellent reputation for finding creative and commonsense approaches to land conservation.

As a nationally accredited land trust, numerous standards and practices govern our process of protecting land. It is a complex process that involves many steps, and it can take years to complete one land protection project.

Every project is unique, and our role often varies and may include all or some of the following: developing conservation strategies, exploring funding sources and, in some instances, purchasing or accepting donations of land and conservation easements. In short, we protect land by cooperating with landowners and other agencies to find the best, most cooperative protection strategy for each project.

One of our primary services is assisting landowners who voluntarily express interest in protecting their land. We connect with them, help them determine the conservation value of their property, learn about their protection goals, and try to find a way to protect it in perpetuity. We may work on a project from start to finish or participate in a faciliatory role. 

Potential projects are reviewed by our governing board, which considers multiple factors including project size, location, existing ecological integrity, ecosystem services, potential recreational value, and availability of funding sources.

 

Land conservation projects are rarely straightforward. There are often many twists and turns along the way that call for flexibility and ingenuity. We specialize in helping landowners navigate the land protection process and finding the best solutions to meet their needs. We take pride in our excellent reputation for finding creative and commonsense approaches to land conservation.

 

Conserving Florida's Landscapes

 

Our projects stretch from the Florida panhandle to the Everglades and are guided by scientific research that identifies areas of highest priority.

 

Landscape-scale Conservation

What is landscape-scale conservation? There are many definitions of this complex trend in land conservation, but, at its heart, landscape-scale conservation is the practice of thinking big. Projects span entire regions – connecting large conservation properties together like a vast jigsaw puzzle. The interconnected properties are owned and managed by various people and agencies that collaborate to achieve specific objectives for that region. These large, protected and connected properties are at the heart of an ecosystem and are known as “conservation areas.” The Ocala National Forest is an excellent example of a conservation area that anchors surrounding protection efforts.

From the Panhandle to the Everglades, our landscape-scale projects are helping to shape Florida’s conservation future. Our projects go beyond state-level impacts and strive to protect some of the rarest ecosystems and plant and animal species in the world. The three ecosystems we currently focus on are the Panhandle Longleaf Pine, North Central Florida Forests, and the Everglades Headwaters.

 

Panhandle Longleaf Pine

The Florida Panhandle contains ecologically intact landscapes that include the largest remaining longleaf pine ecosystem in the world. It’s also home to large swaths of existing conservation areas including the Apalachicola National Forest, Blackwater River State Forest and Eglin Air Force Base.

Our active projects here total nearly 20,000 acres and, once completed, will protect large tracts of native longleaf pine forests, artesian springs, and coastal habitats. We are also working to expand a conservation corridor from Bald Point State Park to Tate’s Hell State Forest.

 

North Central Florida Forests

 

This area is home to the world's largest contiguous sand pine scrub ecosystem and more than 600 lakes, rivers, and springs, including three first-magnitude springs (the largest springs that discharge water at a rate of at least 2800 liters or 100 cubic feet of water per second). This region also contains the Ocala–St. Johns black bear subpopulation, which is one of the largest in Florida.

Our active projects in North Central Florida total over 116,200 acres and if successfully completed, they will contribute to the formation of a statewide conservation corridor, support healthy populations of native plants and wildlife, provide places to recreate and connect with nature, and help replenish and safeguard Florida’s freshwater supply. The Ocala National Forest is the center of this region and forms a forested area of more than one million acres. 

 

Everglades Headwaters

Also referred to as the Kissimmee River Basin, this region is the heartland of the Florida Peninsula. It is home to large cattle ranches and Florida dry and wet prairies. It is a critical ecosystem because it provides drinking water for eight million Floridians. It is also home to some of Florida’s rarest wildlife species, like the grasshopper sparrow.

Our current work to protect over 20,000 acres of family-run ranches will also protect imperiled habitats for wide-ranging species like the Florida panther. Protection of the land surrounding rivers, lakes and streams in the Kissimmee River basin is essential because it is the headwaters of the Greater Everglades. It is estimated that over 50% of all habitat used by panthers in this region is on private lands, yet most of the surrounding counties do not have a local land trust, making it one of the more underserved regions of the state.

 

 

 
 
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Protecting Wildlife Corridors

 
 
 

Connecting What Matters

As Florida’s population booms, new roads, housing developments, and shopping centers fragment natural ecosystems. Poorly planned expansion of cities cuts off natural movement corridors used by wildlife. The importance of maintaining landscape connectivity to ensure the survival of wide-ranging wildlife species, such as black bears, has been documented for nearly 30 years. Yet, there is still no coordinated, statewide effort to protect natural corridors that provide wildlife with access to safe passageways between conservation areas.

Without conservation corridors, iconic species like the Florida black bear and the Florida panther are at risk of becoming isolated in small islands of protected lands. Corridors allow individual animals from different populations to successfully breed with each other and ensure genetic diversity. They also allow animals to move to different habitats to find food and water as part of their natural migration patterns. With the support of our members and partners, the Conservation Trust for Florida is leading the charge to protect a statewide network of natural corridors.

 

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The Florida Wildlife Corridor

The Conservation Trust for Florida is a partner in this effort. We are building on the momentum and the interest created by the Florida Wildlife Corridor expeditions by engaging landowners and government partners to protect critical parcels and make the corridor vision a reality. 

 

Preserving Rural Lands

 

Wildlife

Protecting working lands benefits many species of wildlife including sandhill cranes, gopher tortoises, bears, and panthers.

 

Family Farms & Ranches

Our work supports the success of working family farms and ranches. Protecting agricultural lands contributes to a strong Florida economy. 

 

Food Security

Florida is also one of the nation’s top producers of food. Ensuring we have adequate land set aside for agriculture is a prudent measure for our growing population. Managed timberlands and ranchlands are also included in this category. We often refer to land used for agriculture as “working lands.” In addition to producing food for local consumption, these lands also produce important commodities to export.

 
 
 
 
 
 Photo by Carlton Ward

Photo by Carlton Ward

 Photo by Carlton Ward

Photo by Carlton Ward

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