More than 220 acres to become part of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, FL—Sept. 21, 2005—The Nature Conservancy sold 223.56 acres important for Florida black bears and a variety of migratory birds to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Wednesday to become part of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
The acreage was originally included in 2,644 acres The Nature Conservancy bought in 2003 intended for the St. Marks refuge that is being sold to the USFWS over time. The Conservancy bought the important inholding into the refuge from the St. Joe Company. The 4-square miles in Wakulla County, bordered by a designated wilderness area on two sides, had been sought for some time by the refuge.
The USFWS has applied for federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase the land from the Conservancy in phases. To date, 1,506 acres have been bought from the Conservancy and officially become part of the refuge.
St. Marks is part of a major ecological link between several key conservation areas. With 35 miles of Gulf of Mexico frontage, the refuge provides critical habitat for a large number of plants and animals, many of which are federally or state listed.
“Our partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Service has resulted in an important place in Florida remaining natural for future generations. We are all grateful to be a part of putting together this regionally significant refuge,” said Victoria Tschinkel, Florida director of the Conservancy.
Numerous species will benefit from the refuge expansion. Florida black bears, for example, need a diversity of habitats over extensive acreage to support viable populations. The expansion will also provide additional protected habitat for a number of migratory birds that utilize this area for foraging during their migration.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. The Conservancy has helped protect more than 1.1 million acres in Florida since 1961.