North Florida Land Trust has helped save thousands of acres from development in Putnam County
A conservation easement on Wetland Preserve has been purchased through funding from the Florida Forever program
By: North Florida Land Trust
"This has been a long time coming for our staff, particularly Marc Hudson, our land protection director, who has been working with Ben and Louann for the last five years to help them make sure the land will stay natural forever," said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. "While the Williams use their land as a working forest and educate others about its ecosystem benefits, they wanted to make sure the land remained free from development for future generations. We had a few options over the years but none of them panned out. We are grateful to the Florida Cabinet and the Division of State Lands at the Department of Environmental Protection for realizing the need to make sure this land remains a preserve."
Wetland Preserve is a critical link in the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor and is located within the Etoniah/Cross Florida Greenway Florida Forever project. NFLT identified it as a preservation priority property in 2015 and in 2017 helped move it to the top of the list for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program before it was defunded. NFLT then identified the Florida Forever Program as a funding option for the conservation easement and assisted the family through the process while helping the state understand the property and execute the due diligence.
The land is mesic flatwoods, mature creek swamps and a smaller area of dry sandhills. It produces fiber and wood and serves wildlife, protects water resources and benefits native plants.
The land within the O2O corridor is a preservation focus for NFLT. The corridor provides an important habitat for the Florida Black Bear and numerous endangered species including gopher tortoises. As part of this agreement, 160 acres of usable timberland will now be used specifically for gopher tortoise habitat.
More information about NFLT can be found at nflt.org.