The acquisition was made possible through a partnership with Camp Blanding and the Clay County Development Authority
Jacksonville, Fla., Dec. 6, 2019 – North Florida Land Trust has purchased 463 acres near Camp Blanding in Clay County. The land is 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 newly acquired property provides habitat for imperiled and other wildlife species and helps buffer the military installation. The property connects Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park to NFLT’s Robert R. Milam Jr. Preserve which was acquired in 2018 in collaboration with Camp Blanding.
“This land is a wonderful natural space that is now protected from development and provides opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and other outdoor activities,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Now that we have taken ownership of the property, we will begin working with the Florida Trail Association to reroute over two miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail from roadway medians through this new preserve.”
The property contains significant areas of longleaf pine sandhills, which have declined in Florida because of development and land conversion. These uplands provide habitat for the Gopher tortoise, a State-Threatened species and a candidate species for possible listing as Federally-Threatened. Other inhabitants of the sandhills include the wild turkey, southern fox squirrel, and Eastern indigo snake. The property encompasses part of Smith Lake which provides habitat for numerous wading birds such as State-Threatened sandhill cranes and Federally-Threatened wood storks.
“This is a big win for the Florida Trail and Florida hikers,” said David Waldrop, president of the Florida Trail Association (FTA). “We will be working with our partner, North Florida Land Trust, to re-route the Trail through the newly acquired conservation lands, and bring people closer to Florida’s beautiful natural areas. We thank NFLT and the funders who made this acquisition happen. It is through great partnerships like this that the Florida Trail will be completed one day.”
NFLT will manage the new preserve to improve the natural areas and habitats and will work with the FTA on the new trail route. This will help further FTA’s mission to build a 1,300 mile-long trail across Florida’s most iconic and scenic natural landscapes. The acquisition was made possible by funding from the Army National Guard through a program designed to secure buffers around military installations and the Clay County Development Authority which was awarded funds by the Florida Defense Task Force to buffer the installation. NFLT also recently acquired 20 acres adjacent to Camp Blanding that expands the Trail Ridge Preserve which was also funded through the partnership with Camp Blanding.
The 80,000-acre Camp Blanding Joint Training Center is central to the O2O and is an important member of the O2O Partnership led by NFLT. The Partnership is comprised of public and private organizations with a common mission of land and resource conservation in the O2O.
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. For more information, visit nflt.org.