STAFF & WIRE REPORTS
Big Shoals State Forest will expand by 142 acres following a critical acquisition of land within the Florida Wildlife Corridor in Hamilton County, Florida.
Alachua Conservation Trust worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to acquire the Big Shoals State Forest addition. Florida Forever, the State’s premier program for conservation and management of Florida’s natural lands, funded the acquisition.
The Big Shoals State Forest addition adds native pine-hardwoods and wetland forests to the nearly 6,000-acre Big Shoals Conservation Area, variously managed by several State agencies. The property contains wetlands that feed the upper Suwannee River. Furthermore, it is upstream from Big Shoals, Florida’s largest whitewater rapids. Big Shoals is a popular destination for paddlers, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, and is central to the burgeoning outdoor tourism industry of White Springs.
The Big Shoals State Forest addition occupies priority lands for the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a network of rural and natural lands recognized by the State’s Florida Wildlife Corridor Act of 2021. In addition, the project is within the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor, a 1.6 million-acre area connecting two large National Forests that contain lands important for wildlife habitat and migration.
“Acquisition of this property is yet another successful outcome of the Florida Forever program,” said FDEP director of State lands, Callie DeHaven. “We work with partner organizations and State agencies to identify and acquire critical parcels for conservation.
This project protects the Suwannee River watershed, as well as priority lands for the Florida Wildlife Corridor.”
This conservation acquisition happened through the collaborative efforts of nonprofit land trusts and the State of Florida. The North Florida Land Trust (NFLT), based in Jacksonville, Florida, represented the landowners as they navigated the Florida Forever eligibility process. Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) represented the sellers with their transaction to the State.
“We are thrilled that this property will be conserved as part of Big Shoals State Forest and available for public recreation,” said ACT executive director Tom Kay. “This project truly was a team effort. We are very grateful to our partners, particularly Florida DEP and the Florida Forest Service for recognizing the importance of this property as part of the Big Shoals conservation landscape.”
The 142-acre property had been in family ownership for many years, and the landowners wanted the land to be permanently managed as natural wildlife habitat. The Florida Forever Program was a good fit with the family’s conservation interests.
ACT is part of the O2O Wildlife Corridor Partnership, led by NFLT. This public-private partnership works to accelerate land protection and land management for conservation, restoration, and recreation in the O2O Corridor. ACT works with the O2O Partnership and numerous other conservation organizations to protect land in the larger Florida Wildlife Corridor for the benefit of the public and imperiled wildlife species.
Since 1988, the mission of Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) is to protect the natural, historic, scenic, and recreational resources in and around North Central Florida.
ACT protects land through purchase, donation, and conservation easements primarily in 16 counties.
As a leader in conservation, ACT has conserved nearly 56,000 acres.●
Alachua Conservation Trust
Alachua Conservation Trust, or ACT, is an accredited non-profit land trust working to protect the natural, historic, scenic, and recreational resources in and around North Central Florida. Since 1988, ACT has been instrumental in facilitating the conservation of nearly 56,000 acres of Florida land, including the direct purchase and protection of more than 24,500 acres. ACT primarily works in 16 counties, owns and manages more than 6,000 acres.
To learn more, contact ACT at info@AlachuaConservationTrust.org or 352-373-1078 or visit AlachuaConservationTrust.org.