NFWF Approves Funding to Protect 32,000 Acres within Florida’s Apalachicola River Watershed
Foundation announces nearly $33 million Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund award
WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 22, 2021) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced the award of nearly $33 million from its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) to the State of Florida to acquire and manage approximately 32,000 acres of wetlands and floodplain habitat along 38 miles of the Apalachicola River.
Acquisition of these properties will provide permanent protection to approximately one-third of the entire non-tidal floodplain, thereby preventing potential conversion to residential, commercial and agricultural uses, ensuring continued ecological benefits to Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
“This major award from the GEBF represents the culmination of years of work by numerous conservation-minded individuals and organizations to protect this vital watershed,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “We are excited to partner with the State of Florida and Walmart on this significant acquisition, which will protect the State’s natural resources on a landscape scale.”
The Apalachicola River is at the center of North America’s sixth highest ranked biological diversity hot spot, supporting more than 1,500 native species of plants and animals, including many waterbird species and juvenile and adult Gulf sturgeon. In addition, protection and improved management of the habitat will have direct benefits to downstream marine resources, including Apalachicola Bay oysters and marine fishes.
“An acquisition of this magnitude is a testament to DEP’s commitment to protecting and conserving our state’s natural resources,” said Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “This project has been decades in the making. It is wonderful to see the hard work of our dedicated resource managers and partners come to fruition.”
A grant from Walmart’s Acres for America program is also contributing to this significant acquisition. The Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Florida Forever conservation and recreation land acquisition program will use these funds to acquire the land. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will manage this as a public trust resource as part of the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area. DEP is pursuing additional funding to acquire and protect 12,600 more acres in the northern reaches of the watershed.
“The acquisition of this important ecological system will provide great benefit for fish and wildlife populations, and provide access to those resources for generations to come,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Eric Sutton. “We are proud to be a partner in this significant conservation action.”
This project was developed in consultation with DEP, FWC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These consultations ensure coordination between NFWF’s GEBF and the agencies’ related activities under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and RESTORE Act programs.
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) works with the public and private sectors to sustain, restore and enhance the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats for current and future generations. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF has grown to become the nation’s largest private conservation grant-maker, funding more than 19,700 projects and generating a total conservation impact of $6.8 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
Rob Blumenthal, (202) 595-2457, firstname.lastname@example.org