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O2O: The Ocala to Osceola conservation initiative

Posted 2/18/24

STARKE – Since its founding in 1999, the North Florida Land Trust has preserved tens of thousands of acres of natural landscape and ecosystems throughout North Florida. “The time for protecting …

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O2O: The Ocala to Osceola conservation initiative


Posted

STARKE – Since its founding in 1999, the North Florida Land Trust has preserved tens of thousands of acres of natural landscape and ecosystems throughout North Florida.

“The time for protecting North Florida’s irreplaceable natural environment is now, before the opportunity is lost forever,” says NFLT in its mission statement. 

Clay County is a focal point of one of the nonprofit’s most crucial preservation priorities – connecting the Ocala and Osceola National Forests.

“The Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor is vital for North Florida’s ecology,” said Heather "Feather" Barnes from NFLT at the Landowners Assistance expo on Feb. 15.

The O2O corridor is a 100-mile-long passageway that connects the two national forests. The critical linkage comprises working forests, freshwater wetlands, pastures and other conservation lands.

“Preserving Florida’s water-abundant landscape is critical for regional resiliency in the face of storm mitigation, sea level rise, erosion and increased rainfall,” says NFLT in its grant summary with the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The preserved passageway between the two national forests allows animal species to continue to move freely, which helps protect gene flow within populations. Animal populations that are geographically isolated are cut off from the gene flow and thus suffer from inbreeding.

The Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor is 1.6 million acres of public and private land that is anchored in the wilderness buffer surrounding Camp Blanding. NLFT is committed to preserving as much land as possible within the O2O boundary.

Kim Hall, the conservation transactions manager of NFLT, made a pitch to the landowners attending the expo who were considering selling or donating parts of their land for conservation purposes. Hall promised any sale or donation would be committed to conservation, which would help reinforce the O2O corridor.

Every acre makes a difference. The end goal is to preserve 140,000 acres by 2040.

If you are a landowner interested in selling or donating land for conservation, contact Kim Hall at khall@nflt.org.

If you are interested in learning more about the importance of the O2O corridor, visit https://www.nflt.org/ocala-to-osceola-wildlife-corridor/.