Florida Leaders and Stakeholders Applaud Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet

Florida Leaders and Stakeholders Applaud Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet on Approval of Florida Forever Land Acquisition

(STL.News) – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet approved a 17,080-acre land acquisition within the Dickerson Bay/ Bald Point Florida Forever project from The Nature Conservancy.  The acquisition of this property, also known as The Bluffs, provides a permanent means of protecting and restoring the estuaries that recreational and commercial fishers rely on for finfish and shellfish species that are the economic lifeblood of the region.

Governor DeSantis said, “Conserving lands for future generations is vital to our state’s environmental heritage.  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.  I applaud DEP and The Nature Conservancy for their hard work in finalizing this acquisition of more than 17,000 acres that will conserve over two miles of frontage on the Gulf of Mexico, six miles of frontage on Ochlockonee Bay, and eight and a half miles of frontage on the Ochlockonee River.”

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said, “I would like to thank the Governor and Cabinet for their support of this purchase of the Dickerson property and my profound appreciation for the partnership of The Nature Conservancy that has made the unique and critical acquisition possible.  This acquisition will provide increased protection of water quality and natural functions of this important land, water and wetland ecosystem in Florida’s Panhandle and further our state’s coastal resiliency efforts along the Gulf of Mexico.”

Temperince Morgan, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy said, “The Nature Conservancy in Florida has worked for more than 10 years to protect the 17,000+ acre Dickerson Bay property in Wakulla and Franklin counties and due to its immense conservation value, we have pledged over $2 million to help secure this win.  Today we congratulate Governor DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet for voting to support the acquisition of this precious jewel for the citizens of Florida.  Investment of Florida Forever funds in these communities will secure a linchpin for vital habitat in the Big Bend that connects state and federal lands in a ribbon of conservation.  It also offers the potential for ecotourism, unprecedented public access to nature-based recreation, and the economic development related to these activities in the region.  During these challenging times, people are increasingly aware of how vital nature is to our physical, mental and emotional health.  It is encouraging that the Governor and Cabinet recognize the importance of conservation to the health of our great state.”

Jim McCarthy, President, North Florida Land Trust said, “This is a wonderful project and is a huge win for North Florida.  It supports the fishing and tourism economies.  It protects incredibly important wildlife and their habitat as well as providing for resiliency.  The educational programming opportunities here are enormous.  The people who fish, boat, sail, swim, hike, bike will enjoy it for generations to come.  It is truly a wonderful part of old Florida that is being protected forever.  We commend the Governor and Cabinet for taking this action.”

Will Abberger, Vice President, Trust for Public Land said, “In 1999, The Trust for Public Land was proud to work with the State of Florida to permanently protect the land that that is now Bald Point State Park.  This long-sought acquisition fits the puzzle pieces together for the protection of these incredible aquatic and upland natural resources, achieving fish and wildlife habitat protection and providing new public recreational opportunities on a truly landscape scale.”

Julie Wraithmell, Director, Audubon Florida said, “This acquisition is a key part of the Panhandle landscape, with iconic habitat and vulnerable wildlife.  Conservationists in the Panhandle have long considered The Bluffs critical to the long-term ecological health of the region.  What a victory to see it protected in perpetuity, for generations of people and wildlife alike.  This is what Florida Forever is truly about—protecting what makes our state special, our quality of life, and the bedrock foundation of our state’s economy.”

Erin Albury, Director, Florida Forest Service said, “The tract will increase the state forest’s ecological value, provide public access and recreational opportunities, as well as benefit from multiple-use management activities consistent with the management plan.”

Paul J. Thorpe, Deputy Director, Resource Management Division said, “The proposed acquisition of The Bluffs of St. Teresa property will help protect water quality and water resources, and it will protect floodplain functions – an important factor in minimizing future flood risk and protecting wetlands and natural hydrology.  As such, this acquisition will complement and further the District’s efforts to protect and restore watershed resources through the Apalachicola River and Bay and Ochlockonee River and Bay SWIM plans.”

Cainnon Gregg, Florida Shellfish Aquaculture Association said, “The Florida Shellfish Aquaculture Association strongly supports the acquisition of the Dickerson Bay/Bald Point property using Florida Forever funding.  The property holds significant environmental resources and economic development opportunities for citizens of Florida, and is greatly supportive of a thriving and growing aquaculture industry in Wakulla and Franklin Counties.  Public ownership and protection of the Dickerson Bay/Bald Point property will help ensure that the waters of the Apalachee Bay and Apalachicola Bay will continue to be of a quality to provide robust fisheries for the economic foundation of the region.”

Kent L. Wimmer, Senior Representative, Defenders of Wildlife Northwest Florida said, “Defenders of Wildlife strongly supports the Ochlockonee Timberlands Florida Forever Acquisition Project as it protects lands essential to the protecting the military missions of Tyndall Air Force Base which use the airspace above these lands.  Additionally, this acquisition will protect the estuaries of Dickerson, Levy and Ochlockonee bays by conserving the adjacent uplands.  These bays provide foraging habitat for endangered sea turtles, specifically, juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, and other state or globally rare birds, such as wood storks and bald eagles, and sea turtles.  The uplands surrounding the three bays are an intricate mosaic of lakes, depression marshes, mesic flatwoods, that support populations of rare animals such as Sherman’s fox squirrel and gopher tortoise, scrubby flatwoods, and scrub connected with the marine communities by numerous tidal creeks, salt flats, and salt marshes.”

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