LEE COUNTY, Fla — A $400 million effort to protect our paradise goes into effect Thursday, July 1.
Lawmakers approved this money to work on major conservation efforts across the state, including many in Southwest Florida.
$300 million of it is going toward The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which will help our state preserve migration paths for animals like the endangered Florida panther.
This map shows what the corridor coalition refers to as the "missing links."
They identify the best remaining opportunities to functionally connect major existing public and private conservation lands across the state.
Once protected, the "missing links" would connect all of Florida’s largest existing conservation lands into one functional statewide ecological network.
That includes connecting Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County to others like Fisheating Creek in Palmdale, Glades County.
Not only would this protect species like the Florida panther, it would also protect the Florida black bear and more.
This will secure their access, along with other wildlife, to Florida's habitats and prevent fragmentation of critical lands.
An additional $100 million will go to work Thursday to preserve environmentally sensitive lands in Florida.
Florida Forever is our state's premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program. It protects our paradise by acquiring conservation easements. Its goals also include environmental restoration and increased public access.
This year's breakdown shows a priority list of 125 projects.
The Charlotte Harbor Estuary in Charlotte, Lee, and Sarasota counties is considered a high priority.
As one of the largest and most productive estuaries in our state, it supports important recreational and commercial fisheries. They want to conserve flatwoods and prairies behind the mangrove swamps and salt marshes along Charlotte and Placida harbors.
This will help with water quality, so that we can keep boating and fishing, and will protect habitat for the Florida manatee and other rare wildlife.
The Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed is also listed as a high priority. That's this area east of I-75, stretching from Lee to Collier County.
There are several others listed across Southwest Florida. To learn about the Florida Forever projects, click here.
Over the last two decades, Florida Forever has provided protection for nearly 680,000 acres of strategic habitat conservation areas.