TALLAHASSEE – This week, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in collaboration with The Trust for Public Land, acquired 669 acres of conservation lands within the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Florida Forever project located northwest of Fort Myers for $3.15 million.
The Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods project protects the largest and highest-quality slash-pine flatwoods in southwest Florida and connects to the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area. This purchase of the Bond Ranch parcel abuts a portion of the Florida Department of Transportation widening project for Interstate 75. FDOT provided $1.4 million toward the acquisition.
“Adding this land to Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area will create innovative stormwater treatment along the interstate, reducing wetlands impacts and improving water quality in the Caloosahatchee Estuary,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson. “State ownership and management of this parcel will result in safe, self-sustaining habitat for wildlife in this area.”
“It was a privilege to work with the members of the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Initiative who supported the protection of this important property to help with the restoration of the natural water flow in the area,” said Brenda McClymonds, senior project manager with The Trust for Public Land. “Protecting Bond Ranch also improves public access to the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area for fishing, hiking, and biking.”
Until recently, the Bond Ranch was an operating cattle ranch. The property will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission providing additional hiking and hunting opportunities for Floridians and visitors. This acquisition will provide hydrologic and habitat restoration. Additionally, Cape Coral residents will see an increase in groundwater levels, as well as supply in the drinking water reservoir.
FDOT District One Secretary Billy Hattaway said, “FDOT is proud to participate in creating an innovative and win-win outcome for the taxpayers of Florida through the contribution of $1.4 million in funds toward the purchase of the Bond Ranch parcel. This purchase, which was done as part of the permitting process, allows the department to 6-lane one of the last 4-lane segments of I-75, reduce our long term maintenance costs, acquire important conservation lands, and facilitate improvements to the hydrology within the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods.”
The Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund approved the acquisition on Jan. 13, 2015, at the Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee, Florida.