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The Perry District of Florida Forest Service, serving Dixie, Lafayette, Madison and Taylor counties, hosted an Operation Outdoor Freedom event Aug. 6-8 in Jena (Steinhatchee). 

PERRY — The Perry District of Florida Forest Service, serving Dixie, Lafayette, Madison and Taylor counties, hosted an Operation Outdoor Freedom event Aug. 6-8 in Jena (Steinhatchee). 

Supported by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nicole "Nikki" Fried, “Operation Outdoor Freedom” provides wounded veterans with the outdoor activities they enjoy at no cost. Designated state and agricultural lands throughout Florida grant these veterans unique opportunities for recreation and rehabilitation. The Florida Forest Service, within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, has provided hundreds of veterans with the “Operation Outdoor Freedom” experience, and Fried encourages veterans who qualify to register for upcoming events.

This event was a scalloping event with opportunities for fishing in Steinhatchee. Participants stayed at Good Times Marina in Jena, which is located just across the bridge from Steinhatchee. Meals were provided, and participants had the opportunity to scallop and/or fish with their provided guide. Time on the water depended on the weather and that week was luckily beautiful. Five veterans were invited; however, only four were able to attend. Each harvested many scallops and enjoyed the beauty of the local Big Bend Coast. This is the fourth annual scalloping event for Operation Outdoor Freedom and the local Florida Forest Service offices offer deer and hog hunting opportunities annually for wounded veterans in the program.

Participants in the Operation Outdoor Freedom events must be a Florida resident who are honorably discharged military veterans with either a service-connected disability rating of 30% or greater from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs or be a Purple Heart recipient. Selected participants are drawn at random to participate in one event unless there are unfilled slots available at other events for which applied. Selected participants are notified 30 days prior to the event. Event coordinators provide events details, contact information and answer any questions. 

The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres. Learn more at FloridaForestService.com.

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