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In Florida, Bipartisan Bill Provides for Wildlife Corridors

By Gustave Axelson
Florida Scrub-Jay by Austin Langdon/Macaulay Library.
Florida Scrub-Jay by Austin Langdon/Macaulay Library.

From the Summer 2021 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

On April 27 the Florida legislature passed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act with bipartisan, unanimous support: 40-0 in the state senate, and 115-0 in the state house. On June 29, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law.

The act seeks to secure wildlife habitat; protect the headwaters of major watersheds; sustain working farms, lands, and forests; and protect coastal estuaries.

As the act’s name implies, an impetus for the policy was a push to conserve wildlife corridors for species such as the endangered Florida panther that need connected spaces throughout their ranges. Scientists at Florida’s Archbold Biological Station say the bill benefits birds as well. The act will protect critical habitat on cattle ranches, which are vital for grassland-dependent birds such as the endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. It will also protect landscape linkages by connecting bird habitats to each other, which is important for the endangered Florida Scrub-Jay, as scrub-jays must be able to move between patches of oak scrub for the genetic mixing that prevents inbreeding among isolated populations.

“Passage of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act legislation demonstrates an extraordinary shared commitment across the state to conserve Florida’s lands and waters into the future,” said Hilary Swain, executive director of the Archbold Biological Station. “Archbold is privileged to have played a supporting role in passage of the Act, helping to establish this framework for an enduring conservation legacy, building synergies between the state and private landowners, and securing funding to protect critical habitats, timberlands, farms, and ranches.

“We know conserving connectivity is important for nature from the scale of a small pollinating bug to a bird, to a bear. The emerging, broader vision of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act is that society also depends on protecting connectivity to support the essential green infrastructure upon which the future of all Floridians depends.”

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library

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