JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 700 acres of Welaka Woods property has been donated to the North Florida Land Trust. The 716-acre conservation easement is in the critical Ocala to Osceola wildlife corridor.
The property is located between Welaka State Forest and Lake George Conservation Area and is the largest conservation easement the nonprofit has received in the O2O corridor.
The donation was made by Welaka Woods, LLC.
“Keeping this piece of land in its natural state is so important for many conservation reasons including the protection of wildlife and the protection of the water quality and water supply for the citizens of Florida,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Welaka Woods is in a significant recharge area for the Floridan aquifer which is a vital drinking water source. It also has a variety of habitats that can host many species considered threatened or endangered. We thank the donor for this donation and for their passionate commitment to conservation.”
The variety of habitats found within the roughly 700 acres include longleaf pine sandhill, scrub, bay swamps, ephemeral ponds, forested wetlands and sandhill lakes. These habitats provide forage, nesting and safe passage to many threatened and endangered species including the American kestrel, Florida black bear, gopher tortoise and Florida sandhill crane. These environments also host plant species that are in danger of decline.
Conserving this property in perpetuity creates a more complete pattern of land protection within the O2O Corridor, a 1.6 million-acre corridor of public and private lands that connects the Ocala and Osceola National Forests, NFLT explained.
The land is also within the restricted airspace of the Pine Castle Bombing Range and keeping it free from civilian use and development will protect the military mission and allow naval air training without affecting the quality of life of potential neighbors.
NFLT leads a partnership of public and private organizations dedicated to conservation in the O2O. This conservation easement donation helps to further the goals of the O2O partnership by conserving this land for the future of the wildlife and forests.