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North Florida Land Trust hits challenge grant, earns extra $75K for O2O Wildlife Corridor

Map of the Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor
Map of the Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor (Provided by North Florida Land Trust)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – North Florida Land Trust successfully met a challenge grant issued in July 2020, earning a matching $75,000 grant to help fund its efforts in the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor.

The challenge, issued by the EJK Foundation of Houston, Texas, gave NFLT until Aug. 31 to raise $75,000 that the foundation would then match 1:1.

The nonprofit land conservation organization was able to raise the money needed and will now receive the additional $75,000 for the O2O Corridor, which is part of the greater Florida Wildlife Corridor, a blueprint for the conservation and connection of Florida’s native and rural landscapes, NFLT said.

“We are grateful to the donors that helped us meet this goal and are especially thankful to the EJK Foundation for their support of our efforts to conserve land along the O2O,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Protecting lands within the O2O Corridor and restoring the old-growth longleaf pine ecosystems provide critical habitat for many endangered species. Protecting the land allows the wildlife to move freely through the corridor to migrate, forage for food, and mate in a way that is natural to their species.”

NFLT leads the O2O Partnership made up of public and private organizations dedicated to landscape-scale conservation in the 1.6-million-acre corridor of public and private lands that connects the Ocala and Osceola National Forests. Black bears move through the corridor, which also provides habitat connectivity for endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snakes and gopher tortoises. In total, there are 34 federally classified threatened and endangered species, and three disappearing habitat types within the O2O.

The EJK Foundation supports efforts centered on landscape-scale conservation for wildlife habitat and ecological resiliency. The Foundation also awarded NFLT a $450,000 grant in July 2020 to help fund the operational needs of the O2O initiative over two years. The grants will help with costs including salaries, due diligence, marketing, and increased fundraising capacity related to the O2O initiative. NFLT’s goal is to conserve 140,000 in the O2O Conservation Corridor in the next 20 years.

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.