Blistered and bug-bitten, a group of conservationists reached their destination of Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia, on Earth Day. The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team set out back in January, at the southern tip of Florida in the Everglades National Park. They made their way up through the sunshine state on foot, by paddle and occasionally on horseback. Their goal has been to garner attention for a vision to link Florida’s already existing protected natural areas, to lands with the potential to be protected. The hope is this will eventually lead to a state-long corridor of wild and rural lands.
Now that the 100 day expedition has been completed, the focus of expedition co-leader, Carlton Ward Jr. and others involved in the corridor project could be even more challenging. That focus includes getting funding restored for the state’s conservation land acquisition program, Florida Forever.
Tom Hoctor, director of the Center for Landscape Conservation Planning at University of Florida, and co-founder of the Florida Wildlife Corridor concept, says that if Florida Forever is supported and gets funding returned to pre-economic downturn levels, big parts of the Florida Wildlife Corridor could get protected in the next few years. Hoctor explains that this funding is an investment in the health of Florida’s environment and economy through long-term planning.
“Natural and rural lands provide us with many different services, including water storage, water purification, flood control, storm protection, air purification, etc.” Hoctor says.
He adds that these resources are actually worth a lot of money.
Expedition member Mallory Lykes Dimmitt adds that conservation is a bipartisan issue.
“It’s supported by a large majority of Floridians and in general, around the country, polling data shows that we’re largely for conservation.” She adds: “Without the voice of citizens demanding these things from our elected officials, it’s very easy to cut those kinds of programs out.”