Why should conserving a tract of wild and rural areas stretching the length of Florida matter to people? The answer is multi-faceted: Agriculture, economics, water and recreation.
Agriculture is the second biggest economy in our state, next to tourism. Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition co-leader, Carlton Ward Jr., explains that this project depends on farms, ranches and other private lands to connect already designated conservation areas.
Ward says the vision for connecting Florida doesn’t rely on the state or the federal government buying much land. Instead it’s a vision that helps empower interested landowners to sell their development rights to conservation easements.
Ward adds: “There are tens of thousands of acres that have come into conservation just since 2010, because the USDA, through their wetland reserve program, has helped willing farmers and ranchers … engage in wetlands restoration.”
In fact, private lands make up about half of what Ward calls, “The Florida wildlife opportunity area.”
He says keeping a green infrastructure intact has the added benefit of helping ensure ample water supply and water quality for Florida’s population.
Ward and the other expedition members also hope to promote outdoors recreation, and showcase some of Florida’s best natural settings, such as the Florida Trail, and Florida's freshwater springs.
Ward welcomes the public to hike along with the expedition in parts of Ocala National Forest.