Aerial view of rivers and lakes at the Bluffs of St. Teresa in the panhandle region of Florida.
Bluffs of St. Teresa Aerial view of the Bluffs of St. Teresa in Florida. © Russell C. Mick

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Bluffs of St. Teresa Protection Completed

17,000 acres of essential habitat conserved in Florida’s Big Bend.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and The Nature Conservancy closed on a historic 16,971 acre land acquisition last week. The Dickerson Bay property, also known as the Bluffs of St. Teresa, is an essential tract of land in Florida’s Big Bend in the midst of a protected landscape spanning over one million acres.

This acquisition closes the gap between Bald Point State Park and Tate’s Hell State Forest, creating a contiguous protected landscape that includes the Apalachicola National Forest, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the Ochlockonee River State Park. The protection of the Bluffs marks a conservation milestone, with benefits to climate resilience, preservation of rivers and lakes that are critical to water quality, quantity and the health of the region’s aquaculture, and the safeguarding of habitat needed by countless native and migrating species.

Due to its location and environmental significance, TNC has worked to place the Bluffs of St. Teresa in conservation for over a decade, and contributed $2.25 million to ensure its protection. The Department of Defense also contributed $2.19 million. Sought by the state of Florida for 24 years, the property was purchased for $43 million from Ochlockonee Timberlands, LLC, a subsidiary of AgReserves, Inc., represented by Dean Saunders of SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler.

“Securing the protection of the Bluffs of St. Teresa is a once in a generation win for the environment, for the local community and for Florida. Considering its immense conservation value, it’s no surprise that The Nature Conservancy has been working tirelessly to connect this remarkable piece of coastal habitat to the one million plus acres of protected land surrounding it for the past decade,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director, The Nature Conservancy in Florida, adding “The Nature Conservancy worked hand-in-hand with FDEP over the course of years to bring this deal to a close, and we committed $2.25 million to ensure the conservation of this precious jewel. Moments like this remind us why we need to band together as one community for the protection of our natural resources, our landscapes and our shared vision for the future.”

The Bluffs of St. Teresa includes lakes, wetlands, floodplain swamp, salt marshes and tidal creeks along uplands that include pine forest, shrub and bog. It is home to rare plants, endangered animals and includes water frontage along the Gulf of Mexico, Ochlockonee Bay and Ochlockonee River.

“The Bluffs is an incredibly important acquisition for the state of Florida, and is the largest fee acquisition approved by the Board of Trustees in over a decade. Not only does this area connect multiple state parks and federally preserved lands, it also protects estuarine and freshwater resources that make up the economic and ecological lifeblood of the near-shore Gulf,” said FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I thank the Nature Conservancy for their dedication to securing this property, and for working together with FDEP and other partners to finalize this acquisition and protect it for future generations. This acquisition is a great step forward for the future of conservation in Florida.”

“It’s gratifying to know this land will be preserved for generations to come,” said CEO of AgReserves Don Sleight. “As farmers and ranchers, we work with natural systems every day, so we look to the long-term in everything we do. We’re pleased to be working with The Nature Conservancy to make this property part of Florida Forever’s enduring stewardship.”

Now safely in conservation, the Bluffs of St. Teresa will be managed by FDEP's Division of Recreation and Parks and Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Florida Forest Service.

The Bluffs of St. Teresa TNC Florida executive director Temperince Morgan speaks about this once in a generation conservation win that offers climate resilience, habitat protection and helps ensure water quality and quantity for the region.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.