September 20, 2021

The River Branch Foundation has donated the remaining money needed to acquire the islands for conservation

North Florida Land Trust has received a donation from the River Branch Foundation to purchase more than 215 acres that make up nine islands known as the Small Islands. The nonprofit land conservation organization purchased approximately 28 acres in July and the remaining acres will complete the purchase of the islands.

“This is such a wonderful gift and we thank the River Branch Foundation for their generosity that will help us acquire these environmentally important islands,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Protecting these islands will provide a buffer that will help to protect surrounding coastlines from flooding, erosion, and storm surge, as well as protecting habitats for wildlife and providing recreational opportunities.”

NFLT entered into talks with the Small Group, LLC last year after the owner’s plan to develop the islands into luxury homes went public and caused a public outcry. The nonprofit and the owner entered into an agreement last December that gave the land trust until the end of 2021 to raise the money to purchase the islands for conservation. NFLT must now do their due diligence and expect to close on the purchase of the remainder of the islands later this year.

The islands are made up of salt marsh and tidal creeks that are home to rare species including the federally endangered West Indian manatee and the federally threatened wood stork both of which have been seen within the property boundaries. The wetland habitats are vital to the survival of many species of birds including plovers, warblers and waterfowl.

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.