New Alachua County conservation land provides a wildlife corridor for black bears, other species

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Alachua County’s newest conservation effort will protect what county officials call a vital wildlife corridor.

The nearly 300-acre property links Lake Alto to Lake Santa Fe and expands the existing 1,000-acre preserve near the town of Waldo.

Alachua County paid $1.3 million for the property.

Charlie Houder, the county’s conservation director, said the department is working on extending this corridor to make room for its Black bear population.

“This would provide a protected corridor for the passage of species like black bear,” he said.

Houder said improving pine woods for native wildlife species is a priority, but past management has taken the burden off the county.

“I knew that it was in excellent ecological condition,” he said. “And it fits in very well with our existing ownership in the area.”

But Wild Spaces Public Places, the county program which funds these conservation efforts, expires in 2024.

At a joint Gainesville and Alachua County commission meeting last week, local leaders discussed putting an infrastructure sales tax on next year’s ballot.

County spokesperson Mark Sexton said the surtax could extend the Wild Spaces program and allow the city and county to work together on other issues.

“The research is being done now,” he said. “It’s basically to figure out what we think the voters would support, what they think we need, what they think the priorities are.”

Sexton says these talks are in the early stages, but community support is there.

“There does seem to be an interest to continue the funding of Wild Spaces Public Places,” he said.

About Jack Prator

Jack is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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