Governor and Cabinet Approve Addition to Devil’s Garden Florida Forever Project

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Governor and Cabinet Approve Addition to Devil’s Garden Florida Forever Project

~Acquisition of natural lands is crucial for wetlands and watershed protections~

Devil's Garden

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. The Governor and Cabinet have approved the acquisition of 5,534 acres of undeveloped native land in Hendry County within the Devil’s Garden Florida Forever project.

Devil’s Garden is an important addition to existing conservation lands in the Okaloacoochee Slough and contributes to an ecological greenway that create a corridor connection from South Florida to the Panhandle. This parcel will allow increased public access for hiking, biking and bird watching on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

“The Devil’s Garden acquisition is a strategic parcel in protecting important habitat and water resources,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein. “Thanks to the support of Governor DeSantis, the Florida Cabinet and our partners as we continue to prioritize these Florida Forever projects that will help us advance our habitat preservation and water quality goals.”

The northward water flow on the parcel leads to a canal that runs east-west and then moves north toward the Caloosahatchee River. The connection of uplands and wetlands draining both to the north and south are important to protecting state water resources. The natural systems of Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress Preserve are dependent on the water supplied from this area, and a majority of the Devil’s Garden project area lies within the Western Everglades Restoration Project planning boundary. 

“In addition to providing water quality protection within the Caloosahatchee River watershed, the acquisition contains habitat critical for the Florida panther. Conserving these lands in perpetuity takes us one step closer toward securing the future of our state animal,” said President and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Rob Moher. “This acquisition exemplifies the many benefits derived from the Florida Forever program, from water resources protection to habitat connectivity, and the Conservancy applauds the action by the Governor and Cabinet to approve the purchase.”

The property will be managed cooperatively by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Florida Forest Service.

“This is an exciting acquisition for FWC, not only for the added protections for numerous imperiled plants and animals, including the federally endangered Florida panther, but also for the expanded recreational opportunities for visitors to the Okaloacoochee Slough Wildlife Management Area and adjacent state forest,” said FWC Regional Director Dr. Thomas Reinert.

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.