Jacksonville, Fla., April 25, 2017 – North Florida Land Trust has partnered with 12 organizations, including federal and state agencies and other non-profits, to work towards a goal of having the Ocala to Osceola, or O2O wildlife corridor, federally designated as a Sentinel Landscape. A Sentinel Landscape is a working or natural land that is important to the nation’s defense mission. The O2O corridor stretches from the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest with Camp Blanding forming the central link in the corridor.
The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership was established by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense and Interior to promote natural resource sustainability and the preservation of agricultural and conservation lands around military installations. Many military installations have had to shut down or significantly decrease training because of conflicts with development around the installation. Preserving farms, working forests and natural areas near military installations, can also preserve the military’s mission.
“There are numerous benefits to having this land designated through the Sentinel Landscape Partnership for Camp Blanding, the community and the environment,” said Jim McCarthy, president of North Florida Land Trust. “It will create a protection for military missions, as well as the habitat and wildlife that moves through the corridor. For farmers and ranchers, the partnership will give their lands an extra layer of protection from development.”
Becoming a Sentinel Landscape Partner will combine the federal, local and private efforts to protect the land through mutually beneficial programs and strategies. The partnership will preserve and protect habitat and working lands near military installations and will help to prevent, reduce or eliminate restrictions caused by incompatible development that can inhibit military testing and training.
The O2O corridor is a nationally critical wildlife corridor that stretches from the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest and eventually to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Black bears move through the corridor, which also provides habitat connectivity for endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snakes and gopher tortoises. In total, 34 federally threatened and endangered species, and three disappearing habitat types are expected to benefit from the efforts.
NFLT recently assisted in a video project with students from the North American Nature Photography Association’s College Program (NANPA), which focuses on the need for conservation of the O2O corridor. The video produced by the students can be seen at https://vimeo.com/207243255.
Federal designation would protect the lands that are important to the nation’s defense missions.