The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has approved the award of nearly $33 million dollars to purchase and manage nearly 32,000 acres of wetland and floodplain habitat in the Apalachicola watershed.
The award is part of more than $103 million from its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund going to 11 new projects in the states of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.
The funds will allow the state of Florida to acquire and manage approximately 32,000 acres of wetlands and floodplain habitat along 38 miles of the Apalachicola River, preventing potential conversion to residential, commercial and agricultural uses.
The purchase will also help ensure sufficient freshwater and nutrient flow to the Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico to support oysters and marine fishes.
A grant from Walmart’s Acres for America program is also contributing to the acquisition.
The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Forever conservation and recreation land acquisition program will use the funds to acquire the land which is located in Calhoun, Gulf, and Liberty counties.
The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will manage the property as part of the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area.
DEP is also pursuing additional funding to acquire and protect 12,600 more acres in the northern reaches of the watershed.
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.