GAINESVILLE — The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), Archbold Biological Station and Conservation Florida, roughly $1.4 million in grant funding for a groundbreaking collaborative project to enhance wildlife habitat in the Northern Everglades as part of the America the Beautiful Challenge.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced over $141 million in funding to more than 70 partners spread across 46 states, three U.S. territories, and 21 tribal nations, in its latest round of grants — including this project, which funds comprehensive climate-smart land management on rangelands in the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape (APAFRSL).
The U.S. Department of Interior reports the awards will collectively generate at least $12 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $153 million. America the Beautiful was launched in 2021 with the goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.
This funded collaboration by Conservation Florida, UF/IFAS, and Archbold Biological Station will focus primarily on long-term climate resilience within the APAFRSL, through stewardship and research.
“Working rangelands are an important component of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, yet these lands are threatened by land conversion and climate change. Our project will address these threats directly while also looking to the future to support management and policy decisions,” said Hance Ellington, UF/IFAS assistant professor of wildlife ecology and conservation at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center.
The project will not only implement comprehensive land management strategies, including practices like invasive species control, native species reestablishment and water quality improvements, but also measure the tangible environmental impact.
The $1.4 million project will conduct new research on DeLuca Preserve, a 27,000-acre property representative of the working rangelands within the APAFRSL, monitoring for measurable impact of climate-smart land management.
“Archbold has a long history of ecological research in the headwaters of the Everglades and knowledge that is of critical importance for understanding and protecting this ecosystem. Collaborations like this one with UF/IFAS and Conservation Florida are some of the most important ways to ensure proven, science-based recommendations are at the heart of these urgently needed conservation and land management outcomes,” said Archbold Biological Station Executive Director Hilary Swain.
This shared project, involving coordination with private landowners, paves the way for not only increased efficiency of time and resources but also greater habitat outcomes.
This project also partners with Avon Park Air Force Range (APAFR) and the Central Florida Regional Planning Council (CFRPC).
“We’re incredibly grateful for this opportunity to pave the way in land management in this critical part of the state. This project is a true symbol of conservation within our state — multiple groups joining together to protect Florida’s future,” said Conservation Florida Vice President of Conservation Adam Bass.
The America the Beautiful grant funds work through 2028, with the participating organizations using it as a jump-start to enhance long-term resiliency within the sentinel landscape.