The National Wildlife Refuge Association has been active on the ground in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and Southwest Florida. Our work in outreach, conservation science, and land protection has resulted in significant conservation gains to protect the most ecologically significant landscapes in southern Florida, directly benefiting several national wildlife refuges or the landscapes where they are located. Our work has resulted in increased conservation funding and the permanent protection of thousands of additional acres. 

Florida grasshopper sparrow with chicks | USFWS

Our efforts over the past 4 years on the 6,200-acre Corrigan Ranch is now coming to fruition. We have facilitated a state and federal funding partnership to protect this high-quality property with both significant upland and wetland habitat. Our work resulted in the discovery of the largest remaining population of the Florida grasshopper sparrow, the most endangered bird species in the continental United States. The state of Florida and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are in the final stages of acquisition; this property will be permanently protected by January 2021 and managed for Florida grasshopper sparrows, other wildlife, and compatible recreational opportunities. 

We facilitated a state/federal partnership to protect an additional 1,300 acres of the Triple Diamond Ranch. The total land protected at Triple Diamond is now 5,292 acres. This ranch contains some of the last Florida dry prairie on private lands and borders Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. We brought together multiple state and federal agencies to ensure the holistic ecological management of the property and to provide compatible recreational opportunities. 

Florida panther | USACE

Our work led directly to the protection of over 3,000 acres of ecologically significant lands within the Charlotte Harbor Watershed. This land is critical to the water quality of Charlotte Harbor — an estuary of national significance that also contains important habitat for the Florida panther. 

We organized two workshops for ranchers on conservation easements and other conservation incentive programs available to protect and manage land for conservation purposes. Multiple state and federal agencies attended to meet with landowners and discuss their programs. These outreach events have reached over 40 landowners in the Greater Everglades Region and Charlotte Harbor Watershed. 

We conducted one-on-one outreach to landowners to provide information on conservation programs. We held meetings with 17 different landowners at their properties over the past year and are in the process of assisting several to protect their properties. 

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We have placed an additional nine properties into the state’s Florida Forever Program. These properties are all extremely ecologically significant and all sit within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area and the Peace River Watershed. These properties are all high priorities to the USFWS. Placing them into the Florida Forever Program will enable future state-federal funding partnerships.

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