Florida panther

Florida Panther Breeding Area Expands in Partnership with Citrus Producer

Dan Florida, USDA-NRCS

Florida panther
Florida panther G Road Grove
Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Florida (NRCS-FL) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Florida have partnered to purchase a conservation easement at G Road Grove, an active citrus grove and tree nursery in Florida panther habitat. 

This expands the protected area within the Florida Panther Dispersal Zone. It’s a 30,000-acre corridor in Hendry and Glades counties that helps connect the panthers’ current breeding population in areas south of the Caloosahatchee River to suitable habitat north of the river. G Road Grove is also part of the designated 18-million-acre Florida Wildlife Corridor, a network of connected lands and waters that span the state. 

With this conservation easement, NRCS-FL and TNC are creating and supporting large areas for wildlife to feed, breed and roam. G Road Grove joins nearby conserved lands in this corridor, including the Spirit of the Wild Wildlife Management Area, Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest and several conservation easement lands, such as Black Boar Ranch, Lone Ranger Forge and Chaparral Slough. 

Florida panthers rely on a network of protected, connected public and private lands to hunt and breed. They use this mosaic of lands, including ranch lands and other agricultural lands such as the citrus groves and tree nursery found on G Road Grove, as safe movement pathways and sources of food and water. 

The Florida panther population declined due to a loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation and human activities. State and federal agencies have stepped in to help manage the population, which mainly breeds in available habitat south of the Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida. Successful management and land protection efforts have helped the population recover to approximately 200 panthers. 


TNC and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have found evidence of invasive feral hogs at G Road Grove, observing soil disturbance from foraging. Feral hogs typically travel in groups and can destroy acres of land in a single night as they forage for acorns, palmetto berries, small bugs and other food. Controlling non-native, invasive feral hogs require intensive hunting and trapping, which is costly and labor intensive. The best way to manage them is through their predator, the Florida panther. 

Non-native, invasive wildlife and plant species damage habitats that native Florida species need. The landowner of G Road Grove plans to work on controlling non-native, invasive plants on the property with the help of NRCS for cost-share programs. 

“G Road Grove is a great example of NRCS leveraging local partnerships to protect wildlife habitat and the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses,” said Marcus Shorter, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Easements in Florida. 

“The G Road Grove easement is a wonderful example of providing vital habitat and cover for endangered species while also maintaining productive farms. The citrus trees provide protected, unobstructed travel routes that are so critical to the Florida panther,” said Sara May, Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) Coordinator for NRCS-FL. “Conservation easements protect land from future development while also allowing land management activities and uses, such as agricultural activities, to continue on the property. With a conservation easement, we permanently protect G Road Grove’s agricultural uses and natural habitats.” 

TNC in Florida supports conservation easements that protect lands, water resources and native plants and wildlife.