Conservation Foundation of Gulf Coast protects critical Florida panther habitat

Property at southwest corner of Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed

This is a view of land within the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW). Image from the Southwest Florida Water Management District website

The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast this week announced the permanent protection of 10 acres “within a high-priority wildlife corridor in northern Collier County,” as noted in a news release.

“Located near the Lee County line at the southwest corner of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) preservation area, this newly protected land serves as primary habitat for the endangered Florida panther,” the release explains. “The protection was made possible thanks to a generous donation from the property’s owners, Dr. and Mrs. Ambrose D. Pare.” The transaction was completed on March 28, the release adds.

The property’s proximity to the CREW preservation area, which is managed by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), allows the Conservation Foundation “to work with Collier County and SFWMD to protect adjoining lands and strengthen the existing wildlife corridor,” the release points out. “With habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation among the top threats to the Florida panther, linkages such as this are critical to the survival of the species,” the release notes. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, only 120 to 230 adults remain in the wild, the release says.

“Creating and supporting wildlife corridors for iconic species such as the Florida panther is an integral component of our work,” said Christine P. Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation, in the release. “We are incredibly grateful to the Pares for donating this conservation easement and helping to safeguard the future of one of Florida’s most vulnerable natives.”

This is a 2019 map showing the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed. Image from the website

“Beyond the Florida panther, the wildlife corridor supports other species of greatest conservation need, including the wood stork, the Big Cypress fox squirrel, and the Florida black bear,” the release points out. “The newly protected land is also near the Imperial River, which flows into the southern part of Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, a major conservation target in Southwest Florida,” it notes.

In addition to donating the 10-acre easement, the Pares contributed to the Conservation Foundation’s stewardship endowment fund, which provides dedicated resources for the ongoing stewardship of the land, the release says.

Property owners interested in learning how to safeguard the future of their land — and the potential tax benefits available — are encouraged to contact the Conservation Foundation’s land protection team by calling 941-918-2100, the release adds.