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North Florida Land Trust acquires land to protect Florida scrub-Jay habitat

25 acres is in Lake County and part of the O2O Wildlife Corridor

1990s Florida Scrub Jay Aphelocoma Coerulescens
1990s Florida Scrub Jay Aphelocoma Coerulescens ((Photo by T. Ulrich/Classicstock/Getty Images))

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – North Florida Land Trust and its partners have acquired 25 acres in the O2O Wildlife Corridor that is an important habitat for the Florida scrub-jay, the organization announced this week.

The Florida scrub-jay is a federally threatened species.

The O2O corridor runs from Ocala to Osceola. NFLT said it worked closely with The Nature Conservancy, Ocala National Forest, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire the property in Lake County.

“The Florida scrub-jay is threatened because of loss of habitat and it is very important that we save the sand pine scrub forests that they depend on,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “The acquisition of this property was a team effort, and we appreciate our partners who helped make this possible. Preserving these natural spaces within the O2O is a major priority for us to protect threatened and endangered wildlife and plant species in Florida.”

Map of 25 acres acquired by North Florida Land Trust (Provided by North Florida Land Trust)

The Nature Conservancy provided funding for the acquisition through the Florida scrub-jay mitigation fund for the procurement of additional habitat for the birds. The 25-acre property is located within the Ocala National Forest. NFLT owns the property and will partner with the Ocala National Forest to manage the land.

“The Ocala National Forest is very excited that North Florida Land Trust purchased this property, which will forevermore protect a piece of rare Florida scrub habitat,” said Carrie Sekerak, deputy district ranger for the Ocala National Forest. “Protection of this property in the middle of the Forest deters negative impacts from development and enables us to care for the larger surrounding landscape for wildlife and the health of the St. Johns River.”

NFLT works in partnership with the Forest Service to improve the integrity of the national forest and facilitate landscape-scale management in areas including the Ocala National Forest, Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge and the Seminole State Forest.

NFLT leads the O2O Wildlife Corridor Partnership, an effort by public and private organizations to accelerate land conservation within the O2O. The O2O is a 1.6 million-acre network of public and private lands that connect the Ocala and Osceola National Forests. NFLT and partners work to accelerate O2O land protection, to provide habitat for many species including the black bear, the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snakes and gopher tortoises.

About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.