State Acquires 14,347 Acres Through the Florida Forever Program

Florida Department of Environmental Protection


CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850-245-2112,

State Acquires 14,347 Acres Through
Florida Forever Program

~Acquisitions conserve lands for future generations, protect water resources and wildlife habitat, and provide opportunities for recreation~

Corrigan Ranch Florida Forever project in Okeechobee county

Photo by Carlton Ward. Corrigan Ranch in Okeechobee County is one of four parcels recently acquired through the Florida Forever Program.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announces the acquisition of four parcels totaling over 14,000 acres through the Florida Forever Program. These include Corrigan Ranch in Okeechobee County, the Kissimmee St. Johns River Connector Project in Indian River and Okeechobee counties, the Hardee Flatwoods Project in Hardee County and the Devil’s Garden Project in Hendry County.  

All four of these parcels are located within the newly designated Florida Wildlife Corridor. The Wildlife Corridor continues decades of work by numerous scientists, conservation organizations and the Florida Forever Program that recognizes corridors as a critical way to address habitat loss and fragmentation across Florida. There are 1.46 million acres within the Florida Wildlife Corridor that are a high priority for conservation through the state’s Florida Forever Program. 

"These acquisitions further our conservation goals by building upon a network of public and private lands to provide critical habitat for wildlife across the state," said DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton. "They will conserve critical natural ecosystems and working landscapes for the protection of Florida’s unique and diverse wildlife while preserving Florida’s green spaces for generations to come."

"Florida’s landscape is unique and diverse – we continue to put the puzzle pieces in place to conserve lands that protect our water and provide wildlife habitat and outdoor public recreation," said DEP Director of State Lands Callie DeHaven. "We feel especially fortunate to be working with passionate and dedicated partners to make these important purchases and look forward to continuing our commitment - together."

Corrigan Ranch 

This acquisition of the 4,385-acre Corrigan Ranch parcel is part of a state and federal effort to protect imperiled dry prairie habitat in Florida. Located within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, the acquisition of Corrigan Ranch provides many public recreation opportunities and allows for the completion of a portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail.    

The protection and management of this high quality habitat is important to protect rare species such as the Florida grasshopper sparrow – of which there are only 50 to 60 remaining in the wild – and to maintain significant hydrological resources on the property. The U.S. Air Force contributed to the funding of this purchase to buffer the nearby Avon Park Air Force Range from incompatible uses.    

Corrigan Ranch borders Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Florida’s first Dark Sky Park recognized by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and one of the top 12 dark sky parks in the United States. An IDA designation is given to a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment. Acquisition of this parcel will further protect the sky from light pollution. 

Kissimmee St. Johns River Connector 

The 6,670 acre Wedgworth Farms conservation easement in the Kissimmee St. Johns River Connector Florida Forever Project provides habitat and hydrological connection between the Fort Drum Marsh Conservation Area to the east and the Kissimmee Prairie State Preserve and the Ordway-Whittell Kissimmee Prairie Sanctuary to the west. Acquisition of this property is essential for protecting functional wetlands and many imperiled wildlife species, including the Florida grasshopper sparrow, sandhill crane, mottled duck, wood stork, crested caracara and others. This project is aligned with Florida Forever’s goals of increasing protection of the state's biodiversity as well as protecting and restoring the natural functions of the property. 

Hardee Flatwoods  

The newly acquired 1,670-acre Hardee Flatwoods conservation easement will protect the water quality of the Peace River, a main source of freshwater for Charlotte Harbor. This land contains a mixture of mesic flatwoods, hydric hammock and pasture, with various wetlands throughout that contribute to habitat necessary for bears and other species. Florida’s working ranches, farms and forests help promote environmental stewardship by providing compatible wildlife habitats for conservation while sustaining rural prosperity and agricultural production. Conservation easements like this one help retain working lands and farms in family ownership and limit future development with owner-managed natural attributes into perpetuity. 

Devil’s Garden  

The 1,622-acre Alico purchase in the Devil’s Garden Florida Forever Project connects uplands and wetlands draining both to the north toward the Caloosahatchee River and south toward the Everglades, making it important for protecting Florida’s water resources. The natural systems of Fakahatchee Strand State Park and Big Cypress National Preserve are dependent on the water supplied from this area, and most of the Devil’s Garden project lies within the Western Everglades Restoration project planning boundary. This tract is the fourth purchase in the project area.

The property shares its boundary with the Okaloacoochee Slough Wildlife Management Area and the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest, which serves as a primary and secondary zone for the federally endangered Florida panther as well as other rare and threatened animals and plants. Increasing this conservation land footprint provides habitat critical to panther recovery and long-term survival.

About Florida Forever 

Florida Forever is the state's conservation and recreation land acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserving our natural and cultural heritage. DEP’s Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead entity for conservation land acquisition, environmental management and stewardship. Through this program, the state of Florida has acquired more than 897,000 acres. Combined with the purchases of the Preservation 2000 program, Florida Forever’s forerunner, the state has acquired more than 2.6 million acres since 1991. Under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis’, $100 million has been allocated for Florida Forever land acquisition efforts in Fiscal Year 2021-22 in addition to $300 million to protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor.