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Florida Wildlife Gets A Vote Of Support

Florida Wildlife Corridor
Florida Wildlife Corridor

A statewide environmental effort won unanimous support from the Florida legislature in the last session. It’s called the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act and it dedicates $300 million specifically to protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

“Everybody can get behind wildlife,” said Mallory Dimmitt, who has recently been appointed CEO of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition. She says a lot of those funds will go toward supporting wildlife habitat here in Northwest Florida.

“For wildlife, it’s specifically going to help put a focus and priority on connecting the lands in between the existing conservation areas. So there is great connectivity already in Northwest Florida when you think of Eglin Air Force Base to Blackwater River State Park and State Forest and all the way up to Conecuh in Alabama. But this act will help prioritize the funding and the focus to add those connections, the linkages in between these properties that are essential to wildlife movement and also habitat preservation that supports the wildlife in this area.”

The Florida Wildlife Corridor has been described as a quilt rather than one big landmass. It makes up a little less than half of the state and is not a straight line up either side of the center of the state.

To find it on a map, the wildlife corridor would be of all the green spaces, public and private, between pockets of cities. Dimmitt says that for an area that large and a wildlife population that diverse, there are a lot of different steps that need to be taken to preserve the corridor’s delicate balance.

“We know that, for example, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers need mature longleaf pine areas for their habitat and there’s only such a distance they can travel between those areas to establish new populations and colonies. And so by putting a focus on those in-between places, the ‘missing links’ as we call them, those will also be able to be prioritized for conservation either through acquisition by the state or through conservation easement, which is another form of land protection.”

Now that the act has been passed, the next step, according to Dimmitt, is to get to work using the legislation to protect more habitat.

“So when we look at the Florida Wildlife Corridor as a whole, it covers 18 million acres of the state. Only about 10 million acres of that is in some sort of conservation status. So there’s an opportunity to protect the remaining 8 million acres. But with the pressure from development and conversion of land, it’s really important that we accelerate the pace of conservation in this next decade to make a concerted effort to protect as much as we can in the next 10 years. And then beyond, in order for this wildlife corridor to be lasting and permanent for future generations.”

Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act into law in July.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.