Governor and Cabinet Approve Acquisition in the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone

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Governor and Cabinet Approve Acquisition in the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone

Wakulla Springs

Photo courtesy: Sunshine Real Estate Photography

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet approved the acquisition of an additional 717 acres within the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone Florida Forever project. The acquisition of this property represents a successful multi-agency public and nonprofit partnership between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Forest Service, Florida Forest Service and Conservation Florida Inc. to protect water quality within the Wakulla Springs Basin.

Wakulla Springs, located south of Tallahassee, is one of the largest and deepest artesian springs in the world and is largely protected by a state park and state forest lands. The caverns that feed the springs spread far to the north and west. The Wakulla Springs Protection Zone Florida Forever project is designed to protect the spring shed of Wakulla Springs and the land above the conduits that feed the springs. The property features 300 acres of longleaf pine trees and karst windows that directly connect to a unique network of underground cave systems forming the aquifer system of Wakulla Springs.

“DEP is committed to collaborating with our partners at state and federal agencies and in the environmental community to achieve strategic acquisitions like this one,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This project will provide connectivity for recreational and wildlife corridors as well as the preservation of Florida's freshwater springs for future generations.”

“It’s a privilege to work with the Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Forest Service and U.S. Forest Service to protect the Wakulla Caves property and its water resources that have been a priority to protecting Wakulla Springs for many years,” said Conservation Florida Traci Deen. “There is power in partnership, and the protection of Wakulla Caves is a great example of that.”

The 717-acre property is an integral part of the protection zone that connects the 632,890-acre Apalachicola National Forest with the 6,000-acre Wakulla Springs State Park and its national natural landmark spring. Additionally, it preserves a wildlife and recreation corridor spanning from the national forest to the state forest and park.

“It is through the Forest Legacy Program and with strong partnerships that we can continue to prioritize the protection of Florida’s unique natural spaces,” said Director of the Florida Forest Service and State Forester Jim Karels. “I am extremely proud of our team and their efforts to secure over $2.5 million to protect the Wakulla Caves property, one of the top ranked projects in the nation.”

The property also buffers and protects an additional 13 karst features with hydrological connections to the Floridan Aquifer. Over geologic time, these karst features may very well become karst windows that connect directly to the aquifer conduit system flowing underneath the property. The aquifer recharge provided by the property is essential to the water quality and quantity at Wakulla Springs and the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve along St. Mark’s river shores in the Apalachee Bay.

“With the thoughtful stewardship of the Ferrell family, who has owned the parcel since the 1870’s, the tract has remained in a largely natural state and is a perfect complement to Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park,” said DEP Division of State Lands Director Callie DeHaven.

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 is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.