Tonight I'm with my family, cooking sausages on our campsite overlooking the bluffs of the Suwannee river. It's been quite a day after hiking through the cold rain with friends from Osceola National Forest. On Friday I met with them to hike and camp out on the western edge of the great longleaf pine savannahs of Osceola. I've been in the "land of the pines" since entering the timberlands north of Lake Butler My sister Miriam joined me for two days as we trekked through massive tracts of timber owned by Plum Creek, talked with civil war reenactors about conservation and Florida Forever at Olustee Battlefield, and walked barefoot though flooded trails.
When Miriam and I entered Osceola National Forest, it seemed a glimpse of the Florida that early European explorers first encountered, a wild place with expanses of longleaf pine forests. I remembered the writings of William Bartram as he entered the Southeast in the 1700s, writing "We find ourselves on the entrance of... a forest of the great long-leaved pine, the earth covered with grass, interspersed with an infinite variety of herbaceous plants, and embellished with extensive savannas, always green, sparkling with ponds of water."
But since then, 97% of longleaf forests have been lost to logging, development and fire suppression. It's why Osceola is so special, and its encouraging that this part of North Florida and Southern Georgia is in many ways a conservation success story, a wide area of protected land from Osceola to the great Okeefenookee, connected by the Pinhook swamp. It's a stronghold for threatened species like the Florida black bear.
I've followed in the footsteps of the team from the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. They did their own, far more wide-reaching journey, the "Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition," a photographer and two conservationists documenting the wild heart of Florida by hiking, canoeing, and biking 1,000 miles over 100 days from the Everglades to the Okeefeenokee. They shared photos and narratives from these places to promote protecting and connecting wild places from the Everglades to the Okeefenokee to create a corridor where a wild Florida and species like the black bear and panther could thrive alongside a human Florida.
There's over 1.15 million acres of proposed Florida Forever lands that would protect many of the missing links of this corridor that are under urgent threat from development. We have a real opportunity to see that this vision come to reality. I truly encourage you to check out http://floridawildlifecorridor.org and see the incredible photography and vision they have created, and if you're interested follow their newsletter (click the mail button on the top part of the webpage).
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I hope you can be a part of the movement by sharing this campaign and taking the"challenge for Wild Florida," a simple way to get started protecting the place we love - see http://www.walkforwildflorida.org/get-involved.html
And if you'd like to join me on the trail, please do let me know! Text (352)339-8744.
And for more regular update don't forget our Facebook page at Facebook.com/WalkForWildFlorida
1. Osceola NF with friends Hunter, Sebastian, and Juan
2. Entering Osceola NF with sister Miriam
3. On the Florida trail.
4. Camping out in Plum Creeks land with Miriam
5. Epic longhorn cattle west of Lake Butler
Thanks so much, and happy trails!
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