Wednesday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced closing on a long-sought 17,088-acre tract in Franklin and Wakulla counties that includes a restrictive easement for the U.S. Air Force.
According to the News Service of Florida, the $43 million deal with Ochlockonee Timberlands, a subsidiary of AgReserves, Inc., for the property was approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Cabinet on May 28. The purchase, the largest by the governor and Cabinet in more than a decade, was negotiated with The Nature Conservancy, which contributed $2.25 million for the transaction.
Temperince Morgan, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida, called the deal a “once in a generation win for the environment, for the local community and for Florida.”
The Department of Defense is also contributing $3 million. The state’s funding is coming through the Florida Forever land preservation program.
“Not only does this area connect multiple state parks and federally preserved lands, it also protects estuarine and freshwater resources that make up the economic and ecological lifeblood of the near-shore Gulf,” Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said in a prepared statement.
Sought by the state for 24 years, the land is considered an essential tract in the Big Bend region, linking Bald Point State Park and Tate’s Hell State Forest. The preservation effort also creates a contiguous protected area that includes Apalachicola National Forest, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Ochlockonee River State Park.