North Florida Land Trust has acquired 400 acres in Clay County located within the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor, a 1.6 million-acre network of public and private lands that connect the Ocala and Osceola National Forests. The 400 acres are adjacent to the newly acquired Clay County Regional Park and Belmore State Forest and will serve as a buffer to the Camp Blanding military installation.
The property is in the Northeast Florida Timberlands and Watershed Reserve Florida Forever Project. It was purchased for $3.4 million with funding provided by the Florida Defense Task through the Clay County Development Authority and the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program. NFLT began negotiations with the land owner, 1621 Venture, in 2018 to reach an agreement to purchase 400 acres of its 4,600-acre holdings which the owner had envisioned for development.
“Acquiring this property is a big win for our team and for conservation in general,” said Allison DeFoor, interim president of NFLT. “We were able to save at least this 400 acres from being developed which would have destroyed some important habitats for many plant and animal species. We will continue to do all we can to protect these natural places that are critical to their survival.”
The 400-acre property is composed of pine plantations with wetlands that are associated with tributaries to the south fork of Black Creek. It is within the critical wildlife corridor which provides important habitat for the Florida black bear and numerous endangered species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snake and gopher tortoise. Preserving this land will allow wildlife to migrate and maintain populations as they are pushed out of developing areas. The land is also a habitat for the Florida pitcher plant. Five of the six native pitcher plant species are considered threatened or endangered.
About North Florida Land Trust
North Florida Land Trust is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the quality of life by protecting North Florida’s irreplaceable natural environment. Founded in 1999, NFLT has preserved tens of thousands of acres of land through the 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.