Land for Florida Panthers!

An environmental group secured the development rights to a key piece of land in the LaBelle area, a 460-acre tract that’s expected to move the Florida panther recovery forward by giving the cats’ easier access to lands to the north.

The Nature Conservancy paid nearly $2 million to keep the land in an eternal state of farming and preservation, and these are lands panther managers and advocates hope will give the cats a secure location to cross the Caloosahatchee River.

The idea is to get females north of the river so the population can better expand into central Florida and areas north of Lake Okeechobee.

“It is real critical to have a protected corridor and we’re hopeful that we can work with the landowners to the east and west to shore up this northern bank of the Caloosahatchee,” said Wendy Mathews, The Nature Conservancy’s project manager. “And then they have a lot of ranch lands to the north that they can move into with lots of prey, lots of hogs and deer there.

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