The Nature Conservancy, along with its partner, the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), announced today the acquisition of a permanent conservation easement over 1,528 acres of Black Boar Ranch, a combination game preserve and cattle ranch in LaBelle, Florida that will forever protect a documented travel corridor for the Florida panther from future development. The international conservation organization spent over a year on the project, which ultimately secured the critical habitat crucial to the long-term recovery and survival of the federally endangered Florida panther.
“The Nature Conservancy works with private land owners who want to preserve Florida’s critical natural habitats by purchasing the development rights of their property for conservation purposes,” said Greg Knecht, Director of Protection for The Nature Conservancy Florida Chapter. “This is a huge win for the Florida panther, as well as other species, because it will aid in allowing the migration to the historic lands it once roamed north of the Caloosahatchee River and in turn, increase its population.”
Florida has seen a population growth in the number of panthers, with as many as 180 in the wild today- that’s a tremendous recovery from the estimated 30 when the Florida panther was first listed as endangered in 1967. The Nature Conservancy, NRCS, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Transportation and other state and federal agencies are all working together to ensure that all options are being utilized to protect the endangered cat. In fact, the Florida Department of Transportation, at the request of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, recently completed the construction of a wildlife underpass on State Road 80 adjacent to the Black Boar property to further encourage panther migration.
“The creation of the underpass allows the animals to move north without having to cross four lanes of traffic,” said Zachary Burch, Government Affairs and Communications Manager for the Florida Department of Transportation. “The best part about this particular underpass is that now the Florida panther has protected land on both sides of State Road 80, giving it uninterrupted space to roam.”
Last year alone, there was a record of 30 vehicle related Florida panther deaths in the state, including along State Road 80. The purpose of the underpass and associated high fencing is to funnel the Florida panther under the road and avoid collisions with vehicles.
For more information about The Nature Conservancy, visit http://www.nature.org.
About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.