June 1, 2023

Women in leadership - Taking the reins

Profiles of nine women leaders who are taking leadership roles in their fields.

Amy Martinez | 10/27/2021

CEO Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition St. Petersburg

A calling to protect Florida’s natural assets.

On a July morning at Disney Wilderness Preserve in Osceola County, Gov. Ron DeSantis held a bill-signing ceremony for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act.

The bill, which passed with unanimous support in the Legislature, provides $400 million for land conservation in Florida, including $300 million to help preserve the network comprising the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The legislation designates the corridor as a defined area of about 18 million acres, of which 10 million are protected from development, and provides incentives to further protect lands.

Among those applauding the bill signing was Mallory Lykes Dimmitt. A month later, Dimmitt began a new job as CEO of the St. Petersburg-based Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group focused on connecting the state’s wildlife habitats.

“There’s so much momentum and opportunity that I felt compelled to come back and lead the organization as its first CEO,” she says.

Dimmitt, a seventh-generation Floridian, is a great-great- granddaughter of late Lykes Bros. founder Howell Tyson Lykes. The Tampa-based agribusiness began in the 1870s as a 500-acre operation in Hernando County and now has more than 610,000 acres in Florida and Texas, including land for cattle, timber and hunting, as well as for conservation.

Dimmitt says she grew up exploring the Florida outdoors and has been an avid conservationist for as long as she can remember. She majored in natural resources at the University of the South in Tennessee and got a master’s degree in environmental management at Duke. She led a four-state conservation initiative for the Nature Conservancy in Telluride, Colo., before returning to Florida in 2013 to become executive director of the Legacy Institute for Nature & Culture (LINC), the precursor to the Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition.

Along with her friend Carlton Ward Jr., a Tampa conservation photographer, she planned and participated in a trek from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp and another from the Everglades headwaters to Alabama. “We did it on foot or kayak and a little bit on bicycle — all on our own power,” she says.

Dimmitt left the non-profit world in 2016 to become vice president of strategic development at Lykes Bros. before rejoining the wildlife corridor coalition in August as CEO, a newly created position. She says her experience at Lykes prepared her to work with forest landowners and ranchers to preserve lands within the wildlife corridor. Combined, ranch and timber lands account for nearly 7 million of the corridor’s 18 million acres; of that 7 million, about 13% is protected.

“Working in the private sector for the last five years really helps me to understand landowners’ needs and perspectives and how that interacts with conservation,” she says. “I understand the data-driven decisions they need to make to voluntarily engage in the conservation that’s ultimately going to be needed to protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor.”

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