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First property protected by conservation easement in Peace River Refuge Florida Forever Project

Seven years after the creation of the Peace River Refuge Florida Forever Project, the first conservation easement within the project boundary was established Friday, Jan. 20. This inaugural conservation easement on 65 acres owned by John and Jeannette (Forest) Reynolds was purchased by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida (Conservancy) and made possible through a settlement agreement between Sierra Club, Inc., People For Protecting Peace River, Inc., Manasota-88, Inc., and Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC.  The easement will be held by the Division of State Lands (DSL) of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection through a memorandum of agreement between the Conservancy and DSL.

The Peace River Refuge project encompasses 3,850 acres in DeSoto County and is intended to preserve buffers to the Peace River for the protection of water quality and wildlife habitat along the river and to enhance downstream water quality in Charlotte Harbor. The project is also a priority area to establish wildlife corridors and connectivity between north and south Florida. This particular Florida Forever project is designated “less-than-fee”, which means that the primary mechanism for protecting critical water resources and wildlife habitat is through conservation easements. Conservation easements maintain private ownership of properties while removing development and other rights in order to ensure the property remains in a natural state.

Julie Morris, with the National Wildlife Refuge Association, spearheaded the Peace River Refuge project proposal in 2010.

“We are hopeful the Reynolds conservation easement will spur the protection of other properties within the Peace River Refuge Florida Forever project,” said Morris. A corridor of conservation lands along the Peace River is needed to connect conservation lands from south Florida to north Florida and is critical for the health of the river and Charlotte Harbor, an estuary of national significance. The protection of the Reynolds Property is a wonderful example of a collaborative conservation partnership.”

The property owners, John and Forest Reynolds, are well-known in the region for their conservation work and historic knowledge of the area. The property has been in Mr. Reynolds’ family for several generations.  Mr. Reynolds expressed his desire to protect his property in perpetuity, and the conservation easement signed on Jan. 20, 2017 achieves that goal by preserving 65 acres of environmentally-sensitive land.

“We are excited to contribute to the Peace River Refuge Florida Forever Project by working closely with Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, Ms. Morris and the Division of State Lands to make this conservation easement a reality for the property owners,” said Marisa Carrozzo, senior environmental policy specialist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “Hopefully, the success of this easement will encourage other owners in the project to initiate conservation easements, as well.”

Learn more about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida at www.conservancy.org.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 50-year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.

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