The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a $7.85 million award to the Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) on Thursday.
The award is part of $197 million in federal funding for 41 conservation projects through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), and ACT’s Forest to Gulf was the only Florida-based RCPP to make the cut.
ACT’s Forest to Gulf RCCP is home to longleaf pine and critical wildlife habitats, according to a trust press release. It has wetlands, floodplains, and the state’s largest estuaries along the Nature Coast.
“We are thrilled to receive this RCPP award,” ACT executive director Tom Kay said in a press release. “As one of Florida’s fastest-growing areas, the Forest to Gulf region is in tremendous need of expanded conservation efforts.”
The Forest to Gulf is a farm and timberland landscape consisting of extensive natural landscapes, including a large portion of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. It includes all of Levy County and about one-third of Alachua County.
Partner contributions accounted for more than $22 million for conservation easements, land acquisition, and private land management practices, making the Forest to Gulf RCPP award possible.
“By leveraging collective resources and collaborating on common goals, RCPP demonstrates the power of public-private partnerships in delivering results for agriculture and conservation,” said Juan Hernandez, NRCS State Conservationist for Florida, in a statement. “We are excited to work with ACT and all the contributing partners with experience, expertise, and capacity to carry out this project successfully.”
ACT is a non-profit land trust working to protect natural, scenic and recreational resources in North Central Florida. Over almost 35 years, ACT has facilitated over 56,000 acres of Florida land.
ACT works in 16 counties, where it owns and manages over 6,000 acres and has joined forces with private landowners to protect 6,212 acres through conservation easements.
“This is just the sort of innovative collaboration we need to meet the challenges we face in conservation today,” said Alachua County Commissioner Anna Prizzia in a press release. “ACT is at the forefront of exploring ways we can work with private landholders to find common ground and support their stewardship of our environment. I look forward to their leadership in providing opportunities to work with working lands to protect our natural resources and critical habitat.”