The Nature Conservancy Protects Land Essential to the Florida Panther on the Northern Bank of the Caloosahatchee River
Safe place for panthers to roam secured exclusively by member donations.
Maitland, Florida | October 25, 2017
The Nature Conservancy announces protection of land along the northern bank of the Caloosahatchee River that is essential to the future expansion of the federally endangered Florida panther population. The new conservation easement marks a series of firsts for the organization and a strong step in panther conservation. The 460-acre Cypress Creek Grove property in Glades County has been forever safeguarded from urban development and is the first protected tract within the identified panther corridor on the northern bank of the river. Cypress Creek Grove, owned by Falcon Eyrie Farms, LC, is the first working citrus operation in the state to commit to panther protection with The Nature Conservancy, and the conservation easement is the first located in the panther corridor funded exclusively by member donations.
Collaboration with private landowners and the purchase of property development rights for conservation is a cornerstone of The Nature Conservancy’s strategy to protect lands that provide for the range of needs required by panthers. The property is located within an area that facilitates panther expansion from habitat in southwest Florida into lands in central Florida and beyond. Protection of this corridor is critical to the long-term survivability and recovery of the Florida panther. Panthers require vast territories to support healthy breeding populations, and suitable lands in Hendry and Glades County link southwest Florida with lands north of the Caloosahatchee River. Earlier this year, a mother and two panther kittens were observed on the north side of the river for the first time in over 40 years.
For the panther, expanded habitat is only a short swim away, and now there are protected properties on both banks of the river. Cypress Creek Grove is located directly across the Caloosahatchee River from the 1,257-acre Lone Ranger Forge/American Prime property, also protected by a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy and additional easements with state and federal agencies. That property connects along its southern border with the 1,527-acre Black Boar Ranch, protected by conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy with assistance from the US Department of Agriculture. These three easements now ensure 3,244 acres of Florida Panther habitat remain intact.
The Caloosahatchee River with the Cypress Creek Grove property on the left on the northern bank and the Lone Ranger Forge/American Prime property, on the right on the southern bank. © Wendy J. Matthews / The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy’s easements are located within the area identified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as important to panther land connectivity and expansion, and adjacent to lands identified for future conservation by The Florida Forever program, which purchases and conserves natural lands. The northern boundary of Cypress Creek Grove connects directly to an area that is currently highly ranked on the Florida Forever Priority List.
“The Nature Conservancy has been working for more than 20 years to create a connected, protected corridor that can support Florida panther recovery,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director, The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “Cypress Creek Grove is a key piece of the mosaic of natural and working lands that make up the corridor. We’re truly thrilled that Falcon Eyrie Farms, LC has committed to the future of panther conservation, and we’re grateful to our members for the donations earmarked for panther protection that made this possible.”
“Protecting the Florida panther is important to us. We know panthers use our land as they cross from one side of the river to the other, and we wanted to support their ability to expand north in the future,” said Dan Peregrin, Falcon Eyrie Farms, LC. “The conservation easement allows us to continue to be productive, while also ensuring the land will not be developed.”
The citrus grove dates back to the late 1980’s to early 1990’s when the land was planted with citrus and began operating commercially. Currently, about 273 acres of Valencia and Hamlin oranges are in active production, in an operation that implements Best Management Practices for water use. The property also features freshwater and forested wetlands, and a creek that provides habitat for many species of wildlife including wading birds, reptiles and amphibians.
There are an estimated 180 Florida panthers in the wild, threatened by loss of habitat, development, and vehicle strikes. Access to protected habitat is key to their future. A protected and connected landscape provides safety to panthers as well as benefits many other endangered, threatened, and iconic species of plants and animals, such as the Snail Kite and Swallow-tailed Kite, and wide-roaming animals like the Florida Black Bear.
The Nature Conservancy continues to work to conserve native and agricultural lands to create a permanent and effective corridor by identifying critical habitats, designing project boundaries, proposing lands for government conservation land acquisition programs, acquiring properties, and facilitating overall land protection.
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 72 countries, 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.