The National Wildlife Refuge Association was instrumental in protecting habitat for the Florida panther by facilitating a diverse public and private partnership of organizations that collaborated to secure an important wildlife corridor called Panther Crossing near Kissimmee, Florida.
“Seldom can a single accomplishment have such a profound conservation impact,” said David Houghton, NWRA’s Senior Vice-President for Conservation. “It took years of persistence by a broad spectrum of agencies, organizations and individuals to bring us to this conservation victory that will leave a lasting conservation legacy.”
NWRA helped by working with landowners, government agencies and the Nature Conservancy (TNC) to devise and carry through a conservation strategy for the Panther Crossing property. Together, these groups worked to secure funding needed to purchase conservation easements on the 1,278-acre property. The protected areas will be managed by TNC and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and will be vital for the survival of Florida panthers.
“This is a great example of working beyond refuge boundaries to secure habitat for threatened species,” said NWRA Landscape Conservation Programs Project Manager Badge Blackett. “It’s a true partnership between private landowners and public agencies.”
Florida panthers require large tracts of land to roam. Roads and other development cut off the pathways that panthers use to travel, and have inhibited their natural recovery and expansion north of the Caloosahatchee River. By tracking panthers using special collars, scientists determined that the Panther Crossing property is a key link in a migration route that takes the animals across the Caloosahatchie River.
The protection and restoration of the Panther Crossing property is viewed as an important step in establishing two independent populations of the Florida panther. Conservationists hope this will lead to a recovery where the species can eventually be considered to be delisted from their current endangered status. Learn more about NWRA’s work to protect endangered Florida panthers.