Volume 4 Number 30
July 27, 2007

New acquisition of more than 1,700 acres will protect Florida First Magnitude Spring

The State of Florida took ownership of more than 1,700 acres, the second and final phase of a more than 4,400-acre purchase near Silver Springs, a part of the Florida First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever project on July 25. A partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Marion County, the purchase from Avatar Properties, Inc. places the land in conservation and helps protect the water quality of Silver Springs.

“The Silver Springs area is an important cultural and natural resource to be preserved and protected for future generations,” said Florida DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole. “This purchase protects one of nation’s largest springs, preserving its water quality and wildlife habitat.”

The acquisition preserves habitat for rare and endangered species, including the bald eagle, Florida black bear and gopher tortoise. With 13 known sinkholes, the area acts as a “recharge area” for one of the largest first magnitude springs in the nation.

The Florida First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever project focuses on land near Florida’s first magnitude springs that discharge more than 100 cubic feet of water per second. Florida’s springs, scattered through northern and central Florida, draw from the Floridan Aquifer, which is the state’s primary source of drinking water. Springs, with clear, continuously flowing waters, are among Florida’s most important natural resources and are famous tourist attractions. Many of the 160 state parks that the DEP manages are even named for the springs, such as Wakulla Springs State Park, Ichetucknee Springs State Park and Blue Spring State Park.

“The State of Florida has taken a great step toward the protection of one of the largest springs in the country and one of the state’s most renowned natural resources,” said Jeff Danter, Florida state director for The Nature Conservancy. “This land purchase will help to buffer Silver Springs from development and preserve its water quality, while also protecting the plants and animals that live there.”

The Florida Springs Initiative, established by the Florida Legislature in 2001, is the first comprehensive, coordinated plan to restore and protect Florida’s more than 700 freshwater springs. Last year the Florida Springs Initiative set aside more than $300,000 to protect spring ecosystems, water quality and flow within Florida’s award-winning state park system.

The 10-year, $3 billion Florida Forever program established by the Florida Legislature in 1999 conserves environmentally sensitive land, restores waterways and preserves important cultural and historical resources. With more than two million acres of land conserved through Florida Forever and its predecessor, Preservation 2000, the state is increasing public access to recreation lands, connecting communities with green space and expanding natural corridors to safeguard wildlife.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. With funding from the voter approved Florida Forever program and generous donors, the Conservancy has helped protect more than 1.2 million acres in Florida since 1961.

In addition, Silver Springs has served as the setting for the “Sea Hunt” television series starring Lloyd Bridges and many feature films, including “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

For more information, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/mainpage/programs/florida_forever.htm.