Florida Panhandle land deal will help recreation and wildlife conservation
The state of Florida will soon acquire more than 17,000 acres in the Panhandle, adding a key conservation piece to the burgeoning wilderness corridor that includes the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
The St. Teresa Bluffs tract runs nearly 17 miles along the Ochlockonee River and Apalachee Bay and abuts the refuge on its western edge near Panacea. Rare plants and mussels, including the sculptured pigtoe, as well as gopher tortoises, pine snakes, alligators, black bears and bald eagles abound.
“This property protects critical fish and wildlife habitat and provides additional public access to outdoor recreation in the region,” said Dan Frisk, project leader for St. Marks and other North Florida refuges. “And it’s a critical link in connecting the chain of publicly owned conservation lands in the Big Bend of Florida at a landscape level.”
The state dipped into its Forever Florida land acquisition account, approved by voters in 2014, for the $43 million purchase. The tract, also known as Dickerson Bay, links state parks and forests with the refuge and the Apalachicola National Forest into a million-acre tapestry of protected lands.
“Conserving lands for future generations is vital to our state’s environmental heritage,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement. “Conserving large tracts of land like the Bluffs will ensure environmental protection, as well as economic and recreational opportunities for our residents and visitors, now and into the future.”
The Nature Conservancy worked the last decade to secure the property and contributed $2 million to protect the Bluffs. The 17,088-acre tract, sold by a timber company, will be managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Forest Service.
Temperince Morgan, TNC’s executive director in Florida, likened the property to a “precious jewel for the citizens of Florida.”
It is “a linchpin for vital habitat in the Big Bend that connects state and federal lands in a ribbon of conservation,” Morgan said. “It also offers the potential for ecotourism, unprecedented public access to nature-based recreation, and economic development.”
Dan Chapman, Public Affairs Specialist
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- Bald Eagle
- Black Bear
- Florida Pine Snake
- Gopher Tortoise
- Ochlockonee River
- St Marks National Wildlife Refuge
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