KISSIMMEE, FLA. May 22 – The Nature Conservancy announced the purchase of a large and continuous piece of land critical for wildlife passage and the recovery of the highly endangered Florida panther. The purchase, made through a collaborative public and private partnership, required a sequence of events involving multiple agencies and was accomplished just in time to prevent the land from going to foreclosure auction, according to The Nature Conservancy.
The conservation easements established on the 1,278-acre American Prime property along the Caloosahatchee River in Glades County is a key natural landscape through which Florida panthers can disperse from habitats farther south, the Nature Conservancy reported.
Partners in this project include The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Walmart, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and others.
A portion of the protected land will be dedicated to ranching and another to wetlands restoration. Click here for a map.
The purchase was covered by approximately $2 million from TNC in private philanthropy, and $1.5 million each from the USFWS and the private entity that purchased the property encumbered by conservation easements. NRCS provided $1.5 million to purchase a conservation easement on 718 acres of the property. Another $200,000 was provided through Acres for America, a partnership between the NFWF and Walmart.
“NRCS is proud to be a part of this cooperative effort that will restore vital wetlands and protect critical habitat for the Florida panther forever,” said NRCS Chief Dave White. “These lands represent an extraordinary expansion of habitat and we are grateful for the collaborative work of The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners. By working together, we can put conservation on the ground at a rate none of us could achieve alone.”
The new owner, Lone Ranger LLC, will utilize the property in accordance with the conservation easements secured in the transaction. The Nature Conservancy and NRCS will manage the easements.
Through the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) conservation easement, NRCS purchased the development rights to the property, saving the land from any future urban development.
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