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OSI Preserves Important Habitat within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge

Photo Credit: Carlton Ward, Triple Diamond Ranch, FL

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Open Space Institute (OSI), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service have protected nearly 4,000 acres within the Everglades Headwaters Conservation Area in central Florida. Permanent conservation of the Triple Diamond Ranch property will improve water quality in the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee, and the Everglades, while protecting threatened species and habitat. Protection of the property contributes to the contiguous safeguarding of more than 200,000 acres.

Located south of Orlando, the property is adjacent to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and features significant dry prairie habitat, as well as other high-quality habitats in an area of Florida known for its rare vertebrate wildlife, globally imperiled natural communities and significant hydrological initiatives. Prior to its conservation, the land was ranked eighth in the Florida Forever Critical Natural Lands project category.

The permanent protection of the land was made possible through the acquisition of the property by OSI with the support of the Wyss Foundation, as part of the Triple Diamond Ranch project. Under the structure of the deal, the half the property was conveyed to the State of Florida while the other half was conveyed to the National Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Having permanently protected these biologically-rich grasslands, OSI is thrilled to convey these properties to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an expansion of this impressive network of conserved lands,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Thanks to all the partners who made this largescale conservation project a reality, in particular, the Wyss Foundation. Through their commitment and dedication, this nationally significant and unique landscape will continue to protect wildlife habitat and water quality both in the immediate area and downstream into the Everglades, forever.”

“The Everglades headwaters are renowned for their incredible array of wildlife and raw beauty. Today is an exciting day for Floridians and all Americans who have secured this important piece of one of our nation’s crown jewels," said The Wyss Foundation President Molly McUsic.

“Permanently protecting Triple Diamond Ranch will safeguard this unique natural area for future generations, conserving one of the most biologically diverse places in the United States, and securing a critical source of freshwater for downstream communities,” McUsic continued.

The conservation value of the newly protected land is extremely high. The property provides natural filtration for water that flows directly into the Kissimmee River, which feeds Lake Okeechobee and ultimately, the Everglades. Additionally, the biologically significant dry prairie is known for its high-quality habitat for number of rare species, including the Florida grasshopper sparrow and the federally listed gopher tortoise, as well as indigo snake, crested caracara, and the red-cockaded woodpecker. The wetlands of Triple Diamond also provide important habitat for a range of wading birds. 

"This acquisition represents a successful multi-agency public and nonprofit partnership to protect property within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge," said Florida DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. "By working together, we are now permanently protecting nearly 2,000 more acres of high-quality, critical natural lands, which brings us to more than half of the area identified within the Triple Diamond Project."

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