Florida Forever Triple Diamond Acquisition to Preserve Important Habitat in Central Florida

DEP Press Release header


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

Florida Forever Acquisition to Preserve Important Habitat in Central Florida

~Okeechobee County acquisition protects property within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge~

Photos Courtesy of Carlton Ward

Photos Courtesy of Carlton Ward

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has officially acquired 1,992 acres in Okeechobee County located within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge. This acquisition is part of the Triple Diamond Florida Forever Project and conserves significant dry prairie habitat, as well as other high-quality habitats in an area of Florida known for its rare vertebrate wildlife, globally imperiled natural communities and significant hydrological initiatives.

The permanent protection of the property was made possible through the acquisition work of the Open Space Institute (OSI) with the support of the Wyss Foundation. OSI purchased the land from the Wold Family, who has actively managed the tract as a native range since 1976. OSI conveyed the property to DEP's Division of State Lands on Wednesday.

"This acquisition represents a successful multi-agency public and nonprofit partnership to protect property within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge," said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. "By working together, we are now permanently protecting nearly 2,000 more acres of high-quality, critical natural lands, which brings us to more than half of the area identified within the Triple Diamond Project." 

“By permanently protecting these biologically rich grasslands in the heart of the Everglades Headwater National Wildlife Refuge, the Open Space Institute is thrilled to convey this property to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection," said Open Space Institute President and CEO Kim Elliman. “Thanks to all the partners who made this large-scale conservation project a reality, in particular the Wyss Foundation. Through their commitment and dedication, this nationally significant and unique landscape will continue to protect wildlife habitat and water quality forever, both in the immediate area and downstream into the Everglades.”

“The Everglades headwaters are renowned for their incredible array of wildlife and raw beauty. Today is an exciting day for Floridians and all Americans who have secured this important piece of one of our nation’s crown jewels," said The Wyss Foundation President Molly McUsic. "Permanently protecting Triple Diamond Ranch will safeguard this unique natural area for future generations, conserving one of the most biologically diverse places in the United States, and securing a critical source of freshwater for downstream communities."

With the acquisition, more than half of this project has been acquired. The parcel is bordered by Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Other public lands in the near vicinity include Avon Park Air Force Range, Bombing Range Ridge, Fort Drum Marsh Conservation Area and Blue Cypress Conservation Area. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is purchasing the adjacent tract. 

“The acquisition of Triple Diamond will preserve significant dry prairie, a globally imperiled natural community that supports a myriad of rare species, while providing excellent recreational opportunities," said Julie Morris of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. "The conservation of this intact and well-managed landscape will protect thousands of acres of high-quality habitat within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and significantly contribute to the protection of water quality and quantity in the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee watershed."

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.