Yesterday, Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet members agreed to acquire two high-valued conservation properties in southwest Florida using Florida Forever funds. Both properties were purchased from the Trust for Public Land.
The board agreed to acquire approximately 669 acres within the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Florida Forever project located northwest of Fort Myers. The Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods project protects the largest and highest-quality slash-pine flatwoods in southwest Florida and connects to the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area. Acquisition of the parcel will significantly improve the water quality in the area and provide an economic benefit of more than $14.1 million. The Cabinet agreed to pay $3,150,000 for the parcel. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will contribute over $1.4 million to the project.
“The acquisition of this property will offer significant water quality protection for Charlotte Harbor and enhance wildlife habitat in the region,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson.
The Bond Ranch property abuts a portion of a FDOT widening project for Interstate 75. The property will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as an addition to the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.
“I applaud Governor Scott and the Florida Cabinet for approving these projects, which will help protect water, habitat and wildlife so important to Southwest Florida’s economy,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida.
The Governor and Cabinet also agreed to acquire approximately 620 acres within the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Florida Forever project for $9,765,000. The CREW project provides connectivity between three conservation areas, offers critical protection for wildlife like the Florida panther and Florida Black Bear and protects the flow of water into the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and other areas. The project supports at least two species of rare and endangered orchids and includes an unusual strain of dwarf bald cypress.
The property will be managed by the South Florida Water Management District as an addition to the CREW Wildlife Environmental Area and managed to improve and maintain the environmental values and ecological functions of the watershed, in addition to providing public recreational opportunities such as hiking, wildlife viewing and birding.