The beautiful sandhills and grasslands of the J.Y. Wilson property will be forever protected as of earlier this year. This 439-acre property is in Columbia county near Lake City, on the western reaches of North Florida Land Trust’s service area. Penny and Russ Weber own and manage the land, which has been in Penny’s family since the 1950s. The Weber’s have been managing their land for years by burning the native grasslands every few years, which enhances the rich assemblage of native herbaceous plants while deterring hardwood growth. This keeps the grasslands intact and, and provides habitat for many imperiled species including gopher tortoise, Eastern indigo snake, and several ground nesting bird species.
The Webers enrolled their property in the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) program. Significantly, the Webers are the first to have an ALE “Grasslands of Special Significance” conservation easement. This program provided 75% of the funding needed to purchase the conservation easement, which will preclude land conversion or development.
North Florida Land Trust and Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) worked together to raise the 25% match needed to purchase the Webers’ conservation easement. Significant funding was donated by the River Branch Foundation. This is a great example of how nonprofit land trusts work with public conservation programs and philanthropists to protect land in North Florida.