Jacksonville, FL January 03, 2018 – North Florida Land Trust is excited to announce their conservation initiative along the Ocala to Osceola, or O2O, wildlife corridor has been chosen to receive $3,560,000 in funding from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service. NFLT is leading a team of seven partners who are working together to preserve land along the nationally critical wildlife corridor that stretches from the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest and eventually to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.
“We are extremely proud that this project has been selected as one of only four projects within the state of Florida to be chosen for the RCPP award,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “We are focused on protecting the lands along this corridor, which is critical to the survival of natural ecosystems. We will work closely with the Florida NRCS and our partners to benefit the natural resources as well as the private working lands and multiple local economies. Wildlife viewing is a $4 billion a year industry in Florida. We need to protect it.”
The O2O corridor provides an important habitat for the Florida Black Bear and endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snakes and gopher tortoises. In total, there are 34 federally threatened and endangered species, and three disappearing habitat types within the O2O region.
There are 1.6 million acres of public and privately owned forested land within the O2O corridor, which includes 80,000 acres in the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, a central component of the O2O region, the two National Forests and other publicly owned land.
“The RCPP funding will allow us to focus our attention on approximately 100,000 acres of privately owned land within the O2O corridor. We would like to acquire conservation easements on that property from willing landowners over the next five years,” said McCarthy.
The other partners on the project include the Florida Department of Military Affairs Army National Guard, USDA Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Forest Service, Alachua Conservation Trust and the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Each partner will contribute financial or technical assistance to match the RCPP award.
The O2O partnership will implement the conservation program through a combination of land protection and land management incentives for private landowners. They plan to do this through conservation easements, conservation management and other state and federal programs, by encouraging production of working timberlands that provide wildlife habitat and by adopting innovative strategies for regional conservation.
The Regional Conservation Partnership program was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and seeks partners for land and resource conservation programs that benefit private working lands and local economies. NRSC plans to invest about $220 million in 2018 for 91 Regional Conservation Partnership Projects across the country.
About North Florida Land Trust
North Florida Land Trust is a non-profit organization who serves as a champion of environmental protection primarily in Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Union and Volusia counties. NFLT was founded in 1999 and has protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land including property at Big Talbot Island, the River Branch Preserve, Pumpkin Hill State Park, Moccasin Slough, along the St. Mary’s River and other valued natural areas predominantly in Northeast Florida. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with private landowners and other public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations. For more information, visit www.northfloridalandtrust.org.
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