19,225-Acre Conservation Easement Added to Lower Suwannee National Refuge and Big Bend Coast

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CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

19,225-Acre Conservation Easement Added to Lower Suwannee National Refuge and Big Bend Coast

~Through multi-agency efforts, the Florida Forever Project creates a continuous corridor of conservation area and working lands~

19,225-Acre Conservation Easement Added to Lower Suwannee National Refuge and Big Bend Coast

– Today, Governor Scott and Cabinet approved the purchase of a conservation easement over approximately 19,225 acres in Dixie County within the Lower Suwannee River and Gulf Watershed Florida Forever project.

Purchase of this easement will result in the protection of the natural resources located around the Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico  providing habitat and corridors for rare plants and animals to be protected over a wide span of undeveloped public lands. This conservation easement will permanently protect from development while allowing the landowner, The Lyme Timber Company LP, to sustainably harvest timber — ensuring important forestry jobs stay in the community. 

“This conservation easement will offer important benefits to protecting Florida’s water quality, vast wetland and coastal communities and rare wildlife habitats, as well as supporting the local economy,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I want to thank our many partners who supported this project for helping to make it possible. The department looks forward to continuing to focus on acquisitions and projects that will benefit our water and natural resources and communities.”

“Years of work and cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and The Conservation Fund resulted in this outcome for the benefit of Dixie County's people, economy and environment,” said Tom Morrow, managing director of The Lyme Timber Company LP. “We are very pleased that under the conservation easement, we will continue to contribute to the local economy through sustainable forest production while supporting loggers, foresters, and mills. In addition, thousands of acres of hardwood bottomland will protect water quality and continue to provide plentiful wildlife habitat in perpetuity.”

“The Florida Chapter of the Nature Conservancy is excited that a conservation easement will protect this important tract of land that provides significant water quality benefits to the Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico," said Lindsay Stevens, Land Protection Program Manager of the Florida Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. "Acquisition of this easement will build upon prior work within the Lower Suwannee River and Gulf Watershed Florida Forever Project, and is a great example of how multiple agencies can build strong partnerships to reach conservation goals while preserving local economic development opportunities.”

Forestry, fishing, hunting and agricultural support industries are the backbone of Dixie County and serve as the economic basis of the region. Ecotourism will also flourish by conserving the waters in which people swim, fish, scallop and boat. The conservation linkage garners support from a multitude of conservation advocates. 

“This project is critical to the health of the Lower Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico and will help increase coastal resiliency during major storm events. We are honored to partner with the Lyme Timber Company and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on this truly unique landscape-level effort, that helps provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat, jobs and economic benefits to communities in Florida’s Big Bend,” said Lauren Day, Field Representative of the nonprofit Conservation Fund.

“The health of our coastal waters and their habitats depend upon the choices we make inland. This project is a savvy investment in the future of the Big Bend’s forests and coastal areas, making them more resilient in the face of a changing climate,” said Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director of Audubon Florida.

"This acquisition is an example of working lands being protected to benefit people and wildlife alike,” said Traci Deen, Executive Director of Conservation Florida.  “Conservation Florida commends the collaborative efforts to preserve this Dixie County property. There is power in partnership.”

Florida Forever is the state's conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.