The Lykes Bros., Inc., TNC are one step closer to protecting Chaparral Slough, a 6,859-acre wildlife corridor in southwest Florida. As this Florida Forever project proceeds, it will conserve native habitats and important waters within a region of the state with renowned, high-quality natural resources.
The Chaparral Slough project area—eleven miles long and one mile wide—runs along Chaparral Slough, a tributary to Cypress Branch, and is part of the 122,213-acre Fisheating Creek Ecosystem Florida Forever Project. This conservation easement connects protected habitat from south of the Caloosahatchee River to Fisheating Creek, securing the wildlife corridor for Florida panther migration north toward protected lands flanking Fisheating Creek.
“The Nature Conservancy has long recognized the need to establish and expand interconnected landscapes that provide nature room to move and grow while offering people necessary spaces for agriculture, recreation and resilience to a changing climate. Chaparral Slough is a prime example of a functional wildlife corridor and is a key step in our Florida panther protection efforts,” said Temperince Morgan, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida.
TNC first began working with Lykes Bros., Inc. in 1990 to figure out a way to protect this important region. The wildlife corridor is home to the endangered Florida panther in addition to other iconic species including Florida black bear, eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise, Florida sandhill crane, great egret, great blue heron, little blue heron, snowy egret, wood stork, white ibis, black-crowned night heron, crested caracara, American bald eagle, Florida burrowing owl, swallow-tailed kite, and snail kite.
Chaparral Slough features a vast array of natural habitats, including depression marsh, wet prairie, forested wetlands, floodplain swamp, slough, floodplain marsh, hydric hammock, prairie hammock, dry prairie, and mesic pine flatwoods.
These lands also provide critical water supplies, enhanced water quality, and a wide variety of essential ecosystem services to the residents of South Florida. Chaparral Slough captures, stores, and slowly releases water that travels to the Caloosahatchee River and the downstream San Carlos Bay estuarine system.
In 2014, Lykes Brothers, TNC and key partners first proposed the Chaparral Slough project be acquired with Florida Forever funds. Chaparral Slough was added as a new project and then immediately included within the Fisheating Creek Ecosystem Florida Forever project in June 2015. The completion of this conservation easement in 2022 signifies a new era of protection for Florida’s natural habitats.
“The Lykes family’s outstanding stewardship of this land since the 1930’s has successfully combined a working cattle ranch, sustainable forestry and private hunting with tremendous wildlife habitat that supports some of the rarest species in Florida. The Nature Conservancy commends the Lykes family for its commitment to conservation, and fully recognizes the essential role the Florida Forever program, administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has in bringing projects like Chaparral Slough to completion,” said Lindsay Stevens, TNC Florida Director of Protection and Sustainable Communities Strategy.
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 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—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.