Land Protection Gets Boost with New Partnership

A new partnership between Conservation Florida and both UCF’s Biology Department and UCF Coastal increases the bench strength of statewide land protection work.

The partnership aims to produce research, guidance and a multidisciplinary voice to land and wildlife conservation to propel advancement in the greater Central Florida region.

Conservation Florida brings 19 years of land protection, advocacy and landowner education to the partnership, with conservation projects currently totaling more than 180,000 acres. UCF’s contribution is a team of biologists, engineers, social scientists, economists, and emergency managers.

“We are honored to partner with the University of Central Florida to creatively address Florida’s conservation future in areas critical to the health of Florida’s water, wildlife, economy, and overall quality of life,” said Traci Deen, executive director of Conservation Florida.  “Thoughtful, research-based land protection in the Central and South Central Florida regions is the ultimate goal.”

For UCF, the partnership represents teaching, learning and research opportunities out in the field. Some of the work will include protecting the Kissimmee River Basin in the heart of the peninsula, where wide-ranging species like the Florida panther roam vast family-run ranches. They’re also targeting the Wekiva-Ocala Wildlife Corridor, home to Florida’s rarest wildlife species, the Florida scrub jay, as well as the Florida black bear.

“Our new partnership with Conservation Florida will allow UCF to bring its academic power to the table, and to work with them to expand their efforts to protect Florida’s irreplaceable conservation lands,” said Graham Worthy, Ph.D., chair of UCF’s Biology Department and UCF Coastal’s director.

The team intends to take advantage of the National Center for Integrated Coastal Research (UCF Coastal). UCF Coastal’s research team extends beyond biology to include social scientists, ecologists and economists to provide a three-dimensional picture of human impact on coastal ecosystems.

“We need to find effective approaches that don’t strain our ability to implement them, that work for all stakeholders, and will ultimately result in forward momentum,” said Worthy.

Next steps include developing an advisory board of renowned experts to review ongoing projects research opportunities.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for scientists, advocates, lawyers, government, economists and the nonprofit sector to convene and address the conservation needs in the Central and South-Central Florida regions,” Deen said. “We are thrilled to stand with UCF as the catalyst.”


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