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June 27, 2024

North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) has been awarded a grant of up to $105,000 from the Partnership for Gulf Coast Land Conservation (PGCLC) to support conservation efforts within the Ocala to Osceola, or O2O, wildlife corridor. The nonprofit land conservation organization applied for funding to support conservation endeavors to protect more than 700 acres of land within the critical wildlife corridor. The funding will assist with the due diligence efforts as NFLT pursues the acquisition of two properties totaling 103 acres and a 600-acre conservation easement.

“Our team has been in conversation with the landowners who are ready and willing to move these important lands into conservation,” said Allison DeFoor, president and CEO of NFLT. “This funding will help us complete the work we must do to protect these natural spaces because it is now or never. We have been working to protect land within the O2O for many years, and this PGCLC grant will assist in fund-matching requirements from additional sources dedicated to preservation within the O2O.”

The PGCLC grant will help cover various costs, including appraisals, title and legal reviews, surveys, recording fees, and environmental assessments. Each of the three properties has been identified for up to $35,000 in funding. One is 18 acres of predominantly marshes and wetlands, once part of Big and Little Lake Johnson, used as a stopover by migratory birds. Eighty-five acres are in the Keystone Heights area in the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) near Camp Blanding and close to NFLT’s Milam-Smith Preserve and Gold Head State Park. This property consists of upland mixed pine areas, pasture, and wetlands, which serve as wildlife habitats for turkey, deer and gopher tortoises. NFLT partners with Camp Blanding’s ACUB program, which provides funding for the protection of land surrounding the Camp Blanding training center. NFLT hopes to acquire both properties through a fee-simple acquisition and plans to restore the land.

The third property consists of 600 acres that would become a conservation easement and serve as a buffer between conservation lands and increased development. This property is about three miles east of the Northeast Florida Timberlands and Watershed Reserve Florida Forever Project and about six miles west of the St. Johns River. It is also about a half mile away from the First Coast Expressway. The conservation of the land will protect the headwaters in the Lower St. Johns Watershed and keep it safe from development, which has been increasing in the area. The land provides habitat for many rare and imperiled species, including the Florida black bear, eastern indigo snake and red-cockaded woodpecker.

These properties within the O2O are eligible for additional funding through the United States Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This grant will help NFLT satisfy the federal program’s match requirements.

NFLT leads a partnership of public and private organizations dedicated to landscape-scale conservation in the O2O, a 1.6 million-acre corridor of public and private lands. In 2020, NFLT was awarded $9 million in federal funding through the RCPP to support the O2O conservation initiative through 2025.

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 donations or purchases 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.