Newsletter Spring 2021

Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Partnership


Photo by Renee Bodine

Volume 3, Issue 1 Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor Partnership Newsletter

O2O Partnership Meeting Updates

Our next O2O Partnership meeting

Location:  Zoom Meeting

Link and details were emailed on March 15th. For information please email me

Date: April 27th , 2021

Time: 9:30am-12:00pm

In This Issue

  • Land Protection 6 new properties protected in 2020 within the O2O wildlife corridor totaling 4,400 acres
  • O2O Program Development Natural Resources Conservation Service and Camp Blanding Army National Guard partnerships
  • O2O Partnership Development O2O Partnership is entering its fourth year! Improvements and updates to communications
  • New for 2021! New potential Florida Forever Project Area, new partnership communications to come, and get ready for a great year!

Land Protection

Map of the 100-mile-long Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor in North Central Florida. The red in this map shows the additional acquisitions within the year 2020. The Yellow in the map shows other protected properties since 2017.
This chart shows acres protected under fee (NFLT owns) and acres protected under conservation easements (a voluntary legal agreement to protect the property’s land and wildlife for future generation) since 2017.

The O2O Partnership protected over 4,400 acres in the O2O last year, including 65 acres of fee and a whopping 4,346 acres of conservation easement acquisition!  We are happy to report that our Partner, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) was responsible for a large portion of this, through the Florida Forever program.  North Florida Land Trust received two donated conservation easements, leveraged new funding sources and funding partners, and continued to purchase land through the Camp Blanding Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program to buffer lands surrounding the installation.  Putnam Land Conservancy continued their efforts to stitch together natural landscapes through acquisition of small but strategically located lands. 

O2O Program Development

Click on the logos to learn more about each

The 2018 O2O Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP): 

NFLT and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) entered into an agreement in 2018 to collaboratively direct $3.5 million of Farm Bill program funding in the O2O.  As part of this RCPP, NFLT and NRCS, in cooperation with our partners have three Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP) easement projects totally over 1,600 acres, which will close later this year or early 2022.  This is the first use of this Farm Bill program funding in the O2O!

NFLT continues to work with the Camp Blanding REPI program as part of a cooperative agreement with the Army National Guard to acquire conservation lands and easements in the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB).  This funded one acquisition in 2020, and NFLT is working on more conservation projects for 2021 and beyond.  

New RCPP agreement in 2021:  

NFLT received a new $9.44 million RCPP award in early 2020.  Most of 2020 was devoted to negotiating the fundamental agreement between NFLT and NRCS, which includes expectations for conservation projects and quantifying conservation outcomes.  This RCPP will bring more than $6.8 million for conservation easements and $700,000 for conservation practices on private lands.  Furthermore, it compliments over $11.4 million in Partner contributions from NFLT and five other Partner organizations.  Funds earmarked in this RCPP will enable us to measure our conservation efforts beyond “bucks and acres”. We expect the initiation of this RCPP in early 2021 so stay tuned!

O2O Partnership Development

Shown in red on the map above are all of the lands conserved since 2017 within the O2O Wildlife Corridor. Dark green are public lands within this O2O boundary. Light green is the proposed Florida Wildlife Corridor that is laid out throughout the state as areas of critical linkages and importance for protecting a functional network of public and private conservation lands in the state.
Photo by Matt Green. Several of our O2O partners gathered socially distant on a potential acquisition within the O2O to collaborate jointly on funding possibilities to protect the property as well as document its rare flora and fauna.

The multi-stakeholder O2O Partnership is entering its fourth year as a chartered partnership centered on a common goal of landscape conservation in the O2O.  This includes the goal of protecting 140,000 acres by 2040 through strategic acquisitions of land and conservation easements, and land management.  The O2O Partnership is led by NFLT and has a 20 member organizations, including federal and state conservation agencies and six non-profit organizations. 

A major 2020 development for the Partnership was hiring Kimberly Tillman as a dedicated O2O Partnership Coordinator.  Now at her first anniversary with NFLT, Kimberly is responsible for Partnership meetings, improving communications and collaboration, and educating about the O2O landscape and initiative.  NFLT was able to fund the position in part from an award from the Network for Landscape Conservation Catalyst Fund grant.

Last year we enjoyed improvements in O2O Partnership communications and information sharing.  The improved digital O2O Partnership newsletter (like this one) communicates content on land management activities, acquisitions, wildlife sightings, partner working groups and more that is happening within the O2O boundary.  Significantly, the O2O now has its own website dedicated to sharing information about O2O conservation, programs, and the Partnership.  If you have not seen it, check it out:

Despite the global pandemic, the O2O Partnership continued to convene in 2020.  We held two “webinar” style digital meetings, which centered on information sharing.  These meetings were recorded and are available here on the O2O website under recorded meetings.

New for 2021!

The photo on the left was taken on the proposed Big Pine Preserve. This Longleaf pine is over 25 inches in diameter. The photo on the right is of a large size Longleaf pine tree with an active Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavity just across the road within the Ocala National Forest. Photos by Kimberly Tillman.
If conserved this property would be called Big Pine Preserve. The map shows the location of the property in red within the Ocala National Forest.
This picture shows a historic carriage road that runs through the north side of the property. Photo by Kimberly Tillman

A Potential New Florida Forever Project Area:

Big Pine Preserve:  NFLT successfully gained initial approval for a brand-new Florida Forever “project area”. The proposed 541 acre “Big Pine Preserve” was approved for evaluation by the State Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) last December.  Significantly, Big Pine Preserves contains the largest unprotected old-growth longleaf pine forest in Florida, as well as notable lands on the shores of Lake Kerr in the middle of the Ocala National Forest.  If approved, this may facilitate State funding for conservation of this important and unique property.

New Partnership Communications

This year the O2O partnership will have a new look to the O2O Partnership Newsletter.  This Newsletter will also be hosted on the O2OWildlifeCorridor website. The online newsletter will hold more information on each story within the newsletter as well as quick access buttons or links for additional information.   Another added communication that you will see this year is a quick informational post titled “O2OExciting Tidbits”.  These posts will be short and sweet partner accomplishments, acquisitions, deadlines, learning opportunities, and more. All communications will be emailed to you. If you would like to search for one that has gotten lost in your emails everything is stored and organized on the O2O Wildlife Corridor website.

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