DEP Adds Fragile Acreage to Florida Keys Ecosystem Project

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CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112,

DEP Acquires Critical Acreage for Florida Forever and Florida Keys Ecosystem Project

~Large contiguous tract of globally imperiled rockland hammock to be protected~

Fragile Acreage Added to Florida Keys Ecosystem Project

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced a 38-acre addition to the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area on Middle Torch Key in Monroe County.

The property is located within the Florida Keys Ecosystem Florida Forever project, ranked No.1 in the Florida Forever Climate Change Lands project category. This acquisition helps protect the outstanding waters and reefs of the Florida Keys, enhance recreational and commercial fisheries, and provide residents and visitors more areas of natural beauty to enjoy.

“This acquisition represents another step forward in protecting the Florida Keys unique and critical ecosystem,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “We continue to prioritize those projects that will help us achieve more now for Florida’s environment and address the impacts of coastal climate change.”

The Monroe County Land Authority congratulated DEP, the Governor and Cabinet for this crucial acquisition. “We are very pleased to assist the State with these purchases and we look forward to continuing our partnership to protect the Florida Keys,” said Land Authority Chairman Danny Kolhage.

The property has long been considered a high-priority acquisition by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) because of its pristine condition and location on sparsely settled land.

“We are excited these key properties are being added to the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area – conserving some of the last remaining critical habitat in the Lower Keys and providing a vital source of food and freshwater for numerous rare species and migratory birds,” said FWC Land Manager Randy Grau.

The parcel contains ponds and wetlands important to a variety of wildlife species dependent on a year-round source of fresh water, including Lower Keys marsh rabbit, striped mud turtle, ribbon snake, Key deer and numerous other indigenous species. Many local birds such as the white-crowned pigeon depend on larger intact hammocks for food and nesting areas. In addition, native fruiting trees and shrubs in these hammocks provide food and shelter for great numbers of migratory birds.

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.