North Florida Land Trust and its partners have been awarded $15,243,902 by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA’s NRCS) through its Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The funding will support the Corridor to Coast (C2C) initiative that extends through the Northeast and Central Florida region to the east coast and includes a “critical linkage” within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and Ecological Greenways Network (FEGN), the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor. The RCPP will support the conservation of working farms, forests and natural buffer lands that provide ecological benefits to the region.
The C2C is an extension of the O2O partnership led by NFLT and includes public and private organizations dedicated to landscape-scale conservation. The C2C is approximately 5,200,000 acres and covers portions of nine counties that include privately owned working lands and forests, freshwater wetlands, natural areas, pastures and public conservation lands. The RCPP will increase funding for land protection and restoration in Baker, Clay and Putnam counties. It also adds new funding opportunities in Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler counties. The RCPP will bring local, state and federal financial landowner assistance programs to private landowners for land management that protects natural resources and wildlife to further enhance regional conservation goals.
“Extending our conservation reach is so important right now because it is now or never,” said Allison DeFoor, president of NFLT. “This is the third time we have been awarded funding through the RCPP and we have been successful in improving the lands throughout the O2O. With this initiative now extending from the corridor to the coast, we can expand our work to protect natural spaces and resources and increase our ability to make a major difference for our future.”
Protecting and improving the land and these natural buffers have many ecological benefits as well as providing habitats for many wildlife species. It helps protect against flooding by providing storage and decreases the potential for soil erosion and pollution like fertilizers, insecticides, oil, grease and other human-made and natural pollutants that can enter water sources through runoff, drainage, seepage or precipitation. Preserving these water-abundant landscapes is critical for protecting the region from sea level rise, erosion and increased rainfall.
In addition to the ecological benefits, NFLT is also committed to promoting conservation activities that protect Camp Blanding from the threat of encroaching development. Camp Blanding is located in the heart of the C2C and NFLT partners with the military installation through the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program which provides funding for the protection of land surrounding the Camp Blanding training center.
NFLT’s contributing partners in the RCPP include the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (FDACS), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Clay County, Putnam Land Conservancy (PLC), Florida Trail Association (FTA), Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) and Trust for Public Land (TPL). The partners have also committed approximately $9.9 million to the C2C initiative.
This C2C initiative is one of 81 projects supported by the RCPP. More than $1 billion is being invested in projects throughout the country to support climate-smart agricultural practices. The program expands the reach of conservation efforts through public-private partnerships.
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.