GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) has been awarded $200,000 to work with private landowners to enroll in voluntary agricultural cost-share programs. These programs will permanently protect land, increase the quality of regional drinking water, and safeguard important aquatic wildlife. Nationally, ACT is one of eleven organizations chosen by the Southeast Aquatics Fund to receive funding. This funding will support a full-time Project Manager; and additional staff capacity to protect land in north Florida’s Lower Suwannee River Basin, a watershed that is a true Florida treasure with over 300 freshwater springs.
“ACT has been working with rural landowners and agricultural producers in this region to protect their land through conservation easements for decades and we are excited to have additional staff capacity to help enroll landowners in great cost-share opportunities provided by the Farm Bill and protect critical lands in the Suwannee River Basin,” says ACT’s Executive Director, Tom Kay.
Centered around the Suwannee River, the Lower Suwannee Basin Watershed spans primarily 12 counties including portions of Alachua, Bradford, Baker, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, and Suwannee. This watershed is an important recharge area for the Floridan Aquifer – Florida’s primary drinking water source – and directly impacts the health of the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to the basin’s regional importance for water quality, it is also a critical space for wildlife, including threatened or endangered aquatic species such as the oval pigtoe, Suwannee moccasinshell, West Indian manatee, and the Atlantic sturgeon.
The Southeast Aquatics Fund represents a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Southern Company. “Partnerships like these play a vital role in reaching our conservation goals. Working with landowners on a voluntary basis is the most powerful way we can make meaningful progress saving our water resources and protecting imperiled wildlife in Florida,” said Juan Hernandez, Florida state conservationist for NRCS.
“Thanks to the increased funding through the Southeast Aquatics Fund, ACT will be able to work with our local NRCS office to provide increased technical assistance and outreach to landowners and help increase voluntary enrollments in agricultural cost-share projects to improve and protect their lands,” says ACT’s Statewide Land Acquisition Specialist, Erica Hernandez. “Helping landowners find solutions to protect their property long term and take advantage of funding to manage their farms and properties in ways that simultaneously benefit our drinking water and wildlife is a win-win situation for landowners and the environment.”
If you are a landowner or farmer in the Suwannee Basin interested in protecting your land or enrolling in cost share programs, call (353) 373-1078 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Alachua Conservation Trust