June 03, 2024

More than 855 acres of land in a critical wildlife corridor in Putnam County will now be preserved forever in an agreement brokered by North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The organizations worked together to purchase the 855.35-acre conservation easement on family-owned land in the Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor, or O2O. The conservation easement was acquired for $2.1 million funded through the Florida Forever program.

NFLT approached the O’Connor family heirs who own the land to discuss the possibility of conservation for the property which has been in the family for almost a century. The land, an important linkage property within the O2O, is adjacent to Cross Florida Greenway conservation land and includes significant frontage on Rodman Lake. The property was the only land along the lake that was not yet protected. NFLT was able to facilitate the preservation of the property by connecting the family to the state program that could make the acquisition possible.

“Protecting this property through the conservation easement agreement is a great way to make sure this wonderful piece of property, which is bordered by conservation lands and waterways, remains natural forever,” said Allison DeFoor, president of NFLT. “We are grateful to the family and the FDEP, our partners in preservation, for helping us preserve another piece of real Florida.”

The property is a mosaic of pine flatwoods, mixed pine-hardwood hammocks and forests, and sandy pine uplands that were historically longleaf pine sandhill and sand pine scrub. The property encompasses shoreline and submerged areas under the bottom of the Rodman Reservoir including the inundated Ocklawaha River channel and is important for the protection of the Orange Creek and lower Ocklawaha River watersheds. It adds tremendous value for wildlife due to the diversity of the habitat for many species including the alligator, white-tail deer, turkey, red shoulder hawk, Florida Black Bear, indigo snake and gopher tortoise.

Landowner Carolyn Marlowe, speaking on behalf of the family, said, “Our property has been in the family for nearly 100 years. We desire to protect and preserve the wildlife, freshwater ecosystem, and woodlands to be enjoyed by us and future generations of our family.”

The conservation easement agreement allows the family to continue to use the land for recreation, hunting, and timber production. It also allows the family to construct no more than three residential homesites on the property which is within the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway Florida Forever project boundary. FDEP will own, manage and monitor the conservation easement.

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.