(FL/DEP) — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in partnership with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, has purchased a 578-acre parcel in Gulf County within the St. Joe Timberland Florida Forever project.
The property lies within the Apalachicola River and Bay watershed and expands upon the state’s recent 20,168-acre addition to the Lake Wimico tract. Through this acquisition, the public will have access to large expanses of natural areas throughout north Florida. These tracts include examples of almost all the natural communities of north and central Florida, from scrub to swamps and springs.
“This land is one of the most undeveloped, diverse, productive and economically important natural systems in the southeastern United States,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This acquisition will protect drinking water supplies, preserve the vitality and connectivity of wildlife habitats, and expand public lands access. This success is the result of cross-sector partnerships and dedicated coordination.”
“The permanent protection of Lake Wimico is a great example of Florida Forever dollars being used to protect numerous aspects of Florida’s resources,” said DEP’s Division of State Lands Director Callie DeHaven. “We’re proud that we were able to work with our partners to complete this important acquisition and look forward to continuing to build these types of partnerships to acquire additional lands for conservation and recreation.”
“The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is committed to protecting and preserving wild Florida,” said Foundation President and CEO Andrew Walker. “We are thrilled to partner with DEP to add to the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area, ensuring future generations can experience its natural beauty. The public is also part of this effort by purchasing the Wildlife Foundation of Florida license plate. Twenty-five dollars from each purchase supports protection and management of public lands.”
“The public will benefit from this partnership as it provides more access to enjoy natural Florida,” said Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) Division of Habitat and Species Conservation Director Kipp Frohlich. “This project aligns perfectly with FWC’s mission to manage our fish and wildlife resources and provide recreational opportunities now and for future generations.”
The St. Joe Timberland Florida Forever project will be managed by FWC as part of the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area. Florida Forever is the state’s conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.