North Florida Land Trust Marks Largest Conservation Easement Acquisitions to Date
More than 2,500 acres in Clay County will be preserved in perpetuity
Jacksonville, Fla. – North Florida Land Trust has acquired two conservation easements in Clay County marking the nonprofit organization’s largest conservation easement acquisitions to date. The two properties totaling approximately 2,551 acres will now be protected from high intensity development and will serve as a buffer for the Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. NFLT works closely with Camp Blanding to identify lands that are both prime for conservation and important to protect the military base from the threat of encroaching development. Funding for the purchases was provided by the Army National Guard.
“These conservation easement acquisitions mean we have been able to keep thousands of acres free from high intensity development in perpetuity,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “These are the largest conservation easement acquisitions North Florida Land Trust has been able to accomplish at one time in all of our 19-year history. This is about national security, economic development, community relations and conservation all working together for the greater good.”
The largest piece of property, at approximately 2,057 acres, secures a 14-mile wildlife corridor from State Road 16 in Penney Farms to Georges Lake near Florahome. The second piece of property is about 494 acres of land that sits along the eastern boundary of Camp Blanding. It provides a natural connection between the 2,057-acre property and the military base. Both properties are home to a variety of habitats, including mixed hardwood forest, pine flatwoods, floodplain swamp and the blackwater stream, Ates Creek. The conservation easement agreement allows the landowner to continue to own and use the land, but permanently limits how the land can be used to protect its conservation values.
The properties are within the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor; a critical wildlife corridor that stretches from the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest. The O2O corridor provides an important habitat for the Florida Black Bear and endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snakes and gopher tortoises. There are numerous imperiled species, and rare habitats within the O2O.
NFLT worked closely with the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of State Lands (DEP) to coordinate these transactions.
“This is a great story of sustaining military mission capabilities through conservation and preservation partnerships, thereby sustaining Camp Blanding’s mission readiness,” said SJRWMD Governing Board member Gen. Douglas Burnett, former Florida National Guard adjutant general. “These acquisitions are important to the National Guard of Florida, which is recognized for its commitment to environmental protection.”
SJRWMD, DEP and many more organizations are part of the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor Partnership, a partnership of public and private organizations led by NFLT which strives to improve land management and conservation within the O2O. The 80,000-acre Camp Blanding Joint Training Center is central to the O2O landscape and partnership.
About North Florida Land Trust
North Florida Land Trust is a nonprofit organization who serves as a champion of environmental protection primarily in Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Union and Volusia counties. NFLT was founded in 1999 and has protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land including property at Big Talbot Island, the River Branch Preserve, Pumpkin Hill, Moccasin Slough, along the St. Mary’s River and other valued natural areas predominantly in Northeast Florida. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with private landowners and other public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations. For more information, visit www.northfloridalandtrust.org.