TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has purchased an additional 160 acres in Columbia County within the Ichetucknee Trace Florida Forever project.
“This acquisition is important for both the quality and quantity of water flowing into the first-magnitude Ichetucknee Springs,” DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said in a release. “The restoration and protection of our world-renowned springs continues to be a key priority for the department.”
The property is along a dry valley known as the Ichetucknee Trace, which marks the route of a major underground conduit supplying the first-magnitude Ichetucknee Springs with clear water.
Ownership of this property will protect lands directly atop and adjacent to the Trace, including channels conveying ground water south to the springs in Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
“Ichetucknee Springs is one of Florida’s great natural attractions, and the river is a favorite recreation destination,” Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper added in the release. "Protecting the Ichetucknee Trace greatly benefits the park and park users.”
The 2,669-acre Ichetucknee Springs State Park features spring-fed rivers, lush canopies and cool swimming holes enjoyed by visitors year-round. The trails host 15 distinct natural communities, from flatwoods to hammock, sandhills to sinkholes, upland hardwoods, streams and caves. The park’s wildlife includes several imperiled species, including gopher tortoise, Sherman’s fox squirrel, eastern indigo snakes and the American kestrel.
“The Ichetucknee River and its springs are world-renowned, crown jewels of water resources in North Florida,” Suwannee River Water Management District Executive Director Hugh Thomas said in the release. “We admire the foresight of all of our partners in working together to ensure the long-term health of this magnificent resource.”
Florida Forever is the state's conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.