April 16, 2020 – North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) and its conservation initiative for the Ocala to Osceola, or O2O, Wildlife Corridor has been awarded more than $9.4 million by the United States Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). NFLT leads a partnership of public and private organizations dedicated to landscape-scale conservation in the O2O, a 1.6 million-acre corridor of public and private lands that connects the Ocala and Osceola National Forests. The RCPP award specifically supports the O2O conservation initiative through 2025 and provides a partner-driven approach to conservation that helps fund solutions to natural resource challenges.
“We are thrilled to receive a second RCPP award. It is a clear recognition of the efforts of the partnership to protect an incredibly important and nationally recognized wildlife corridor,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “We look forward to working with NRCS, landowners and other partners to achieve our goal of 140,000 acres protected within the corridor by 2040. The O2O is our most mature conservation initiative thanks to the NRCS and the O2O partnership. The RCPP program is foundational to our ability to coalesce and leverage large scale conservation.”
The O2O Wildlife Corridor encompasses two large National Forests, Camp Blanding Joint Training Center and other state and local conservation lands. NFLT’s contributing partners in the RCPP include the Army National Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (Florida Forest Service), Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Putnam Land Conservancy.
“I’m excited to announce the first RCPP awards under the 2018 Farm Bill,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “Through collaboration and aligning our resources toward a common goal, we’re making an impact for natural resource conservation that could never have been realized on our own.”
The O2O Wildlife Corridor is a 100-mile long network of connected rural and natural landscapes. It is a critical linkage of the larger Florida Wildlife Corridor, the blueprint for landscape-scale conservation in Florida. The O2O provides habitat for the Florida black bear and endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise. Also, numerous other threatened and endangered species inhabit the O2O and three imperiled habitat types occur in the region.
This is the second award made by the NRCS in support of the O2O initiative and builds on the successes of the first RCPP initiated in 2018. In total, there will be more than $11 million dedicated to O2O land protection under the RCPP, which complements the $33 million already expended or committed by partner programs.
About North Florida Land Trust
North Florida Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to protect the natural resources, historic places and working lands (farms and ranches) throughout north Florida. Founded in 1999, NFLT has preserved tens of thousands of acres of land through donation or purchase of land as well as conservation easements. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with willing landowners and public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations. For more information, visit nflt.org.