Two conservation easements were recently granted to an environmental group in Walton County. The easements will give Nokuse Plantation control over more than 4,500 acres in Walton County. The agreement provides the group the opportunity to limit development in the area, while also working to enhance wildlife habitats.

SANTA ROSA BEACH — A statewide wildlife conservation program recently acquired more than 4,500 acres in Walton County.


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According to a press release from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, FDEP, in partnership with Walton-based Nokuse Education Inc., has acquired two conservation easements.


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Under an agreement reached between the entities, development will be permanently limited in the area and the easement holder will have a free hand to strengthen the habitats of longleaf pines and rare native species.


The acquisitions will create an important conservation connection between Eglin Air Force Base and the Choctawhatchee Wildlife Management Area, the press release said.


Dee Ann Miller, spokeswoman for FDEP, said the easements will allow the landowner to harvest timber in the area.


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“This area (will) be managed by the landowner by a signed agreement to maintain the land for its natural assets,” she wrote in an email. “It is the intent of the owner that all silviculture be conducted solely for the purpose of regaining a natural forest over the entire property and to maintain and protect the property in perpetuity.”


According to Dr. Matthew Aresco, director of Nokuse, the protected area sits between Eglin Air Force Base and the Choctawhatchee Wildlife Management Area.


He added that the recent easements were part of an even larger conservation effort made up of more than 50,000 Florida acres.


“Over the years, we’ve been protecting land through conservation easements,” he said. “We’ve been working on this particular project for about two and a half years.”


The area is part of Florida Forever, a statewide land acquisition program that seeks to conserve and restore natural resources.


"By protecting over 4,500 acres for longleaf pine restoration, we’re protecting critical habitat for black bears, gopher tortoises and many other rare species,“ Aresco said in the release.