On September 18, Florida approved 17,229 acres within Hendry County for public acquisition. This authorization of lands within the “Devil’s Garden” Florida Forever project is the largest acquisition since 2006. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has highlighted the importance of this area with agency leadership for several years.
We congratulate Florida on this purchase, which is important to the Florida panther, as well as a myriad of other flora and fauna. The Conservancy has been advancing the Devil’s Garden as a high priority not only because of its value as a wildlife habitat, its location within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and the Okaloacoochee Slough region but also because this acquisition may be the necessary key to addressing a ‘hot spot’ for panther roadkill mortality occurring directly adjacent to this parcel.
The Panther Recovery Implementation Team (PRIT) Transportation Subteam, for which the Conservancy has served for nearly 10 years, had identified County Road (CR) 835 bordering this new acquisition as a severe segment for panther-vehicle collisions, even despite it being a rural road. Several panthers have been struck and killed in this segment.
Prior to this acquisition, protected lands only occurred on one side of the road. Now with the acquisition of these parcels of land on the other side of CR835, we are hopeful that the transportation entities will work together to address deadly vehicle strikes to improve roadway safety and to reduce the number of endangered panthers being killed at this location.