How a landmark bill and a small patch of land could save Florida’s panthers By Richard Luscombe, The Guardian

Posted on December 3, 2022

Beyond the dirt tracks and swamps of the Florida Everglades lies a narrow, unremarkable strip of land that has taken on outsize importance in the battle to save the state’s critically endangered panthers. Barely 11 miles (18km) long and a mile wide, Chaparral Slough occupies a forgotten corner of south-west Florida, where cattle roam, cowboys still ride the prairie and birds of prey soar overhead.

This tract of ranchland and wilderness was recently acquired as part of the Florida Forever state conservation programme, which buys, or pays landowners to preserve, parcels of land rich in natural resources or habitat critical to the survival of threatened wildlife species. It is a small but crucial piece in the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a 17.7m-acre network of interconnecting landscapes that allows many of the state’s 131 imperilled animals, including panthers and bears, to roam freely.

Lindsay Stevens, Florida director of land protection at the Nature Conservancy, a non-profit involved in the project, says: “It’s important for panthers and other wildlife to have a protected corridor so that they can move and have genetic diversity to ensure the long-term survival and health of their species, and Chaparral Slough is a really important piece of the puzzle.”

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