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North Florida Land Trust delivered their annual report to the community and was once again pleased to announce an increase in their conservation of natural lands. The nonprofit land conservation organization had a record year in 2018; spending approximately 18 million dollars to conserve more than 6,100 acres of land throughout North Florida.
“We are very lucky to have such a great partnership with Camp Blanding and the Army National Guard, who provided more than 15 million dollars in 2018 for land conservation surrounding Camp Blanding and within the O2O wildlife corridor,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Money from donors and at the local, state and federal level helped us reach some historic acquisitions in 2018; the largest conservation easements to date and the largest uplands acquisition to date. We were also able to acquire two square miles of the Floridan aquifer recharge area, which is beneficial to everyone because the Floridan aquifer provides fresh water to more than 90 percent of Floridians.”
NFLT was focused in 2018 on preserving land within the Ocala to Osceola, or O2O, wildlife corridor; a critical wildlife corridor that stretches from the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest. It provides important habitat for the Florida Black Bear and numerous endangered species including the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snake and gopher tortoises. NFLT is currently leading two conservation programs within the O2O; The Regional Conservation Partnership Program with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Army Compatible Use Buffer partnership with the Florida National Guard who operate Camp Blanding. The 80,000-acre Camp Blanding Joint Training Center is central to the O2O landscape and partnership.
NFLT received the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Award from the Northeast Florida Regional Council for their work within the O2O. The award is given to an organization who focuses on long-term protection, conservation and enhancement of Northeast Florida’s natural resources.
“The work we did within the O2O will keep the land free from development, provides a buffer for military training and also provides economic benefits for the state because it protects those natural resources that we could otherwise lose to development,” said McCarthy. “One of the most important things about what we do is protecting our green space. Our state is attractive because of all the natural resources that we have and it is big business. Protecting the land allows us to continue to offer those green spaces for people to enjoy, explore and learn.”
NFLT was accredited in 2018 by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program by the Land Trust Alliance. The national recognition placed NFLT within a network of 398 accredited land trust across the nation that have demonstrated a commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work.
NFLT was also recognized in 2018 for the work they did to protect and preserve the 1898 Spanish American War Fort. They received the Historic Preservation Award from the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission and the 2018 Florida Preservation Organizational Achievement Award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. NFLT officially handed over the military battery to the National Park Service in December.
At the annual meeting, NFLT also recognized a number of people including new members of the McQuilkin Society, which honors major donors to the land conservation organization and was named for NFLT Founder Bill McQuilkin. Recognized at the meeting for their major donations were Ashley Dopf, Tom Dumas, Dr. Todd Sack, Dr. Barbara Sharp, Lila Elliot, Susan Edelman (on behalf of the Delores Barr Weaver Fund) and Matt and Sean McGarvey (on behalf of their father, Jay McGarvey). NFLT also recognized Camp Blanding Joint Training Center with the 2018 Partners Award and presented the Volunteer of the Year award to Sharron Fehrle and Tim Campbell.
In 2019, NFLT will continue to focus their mission to preserve natural lands for future generations. They are currently in talks with the owners of Fish Island in St. Augustine to acquire that parcel of land. They will also continue their work to acquire land in their Preservation Portfolio, a document created to identify the most environmentally sensitive lands for preservation within a seven-county focus area.
NFLT will be opening Bogey Creek Preserve, the nonprofit organization’s first public park, in 2019. Bogey Creek Preserve is located near Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. It will have public walking trails and a picnic area.. Signs are being positioned throughout the property to explain the ecosystems and unique parts of the land. Bogey Creek Preserve is expected to open in the spring.