Safari Club International (SCI) North Florida Chapter recently made a generous donation to the North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) to assist with the Ocala-to-Osceola Wildlife Corridor initiative (O2O). The investment of the local chapter is a testament to SCI’s commitment to a sustainable hunting and conservation future.
The O2O consists of 1.6 million acres across a 100-mile landscape connecting the Ocala and Osceola National Forests. This area includes a combination of public and private lands and priority lands for the Florida Ecological Greenways Network. It is also a part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed legislation to enhance. The goal of the project is to conserve critical habitat for Florida black bears, the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snake, and gopher tortoise, in addition to Florida’s ecosystems.
Wildlife corridors are an essential aspect of state wildlife management. They benefit both wildlife and hunters as they decrease habitat fragmentation and provide high quality access for hunters and anglers. Benefits also extend to local communities by improving water quality, bringing economic benefits, and more widespread conservation initiatives.
SCI has been a long-time supporter of state-led wildlife corridors to enhance habitat and expand hunting access. Legislatively, SCI has supported corridor funding in America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, the Senate-passed infrastructure package this summer, and the Dingell Act signed into law by President Trump.
SCI Foundation has also done important work on the ground for wildlife corridors in the West. A research project, funded in part by SCIF and the Hunter Legacy Fund 100 Endowment, tracked the spring migration of a mule deer herd more than 4,000 strong into the backyard of SCIF’s American Wilderness Leadership School. The project was led by the Wyoming Migration Initiative and is intended to deepen knowledge on wildlife migration to conserve habitat, natural animal behavior, and hunting traditions.
SCIF has identified bear research and management as one of our priority conservation focal areas and has a long history of supporting bear projects across North America. This includes helping fund black bear research in Missouri collecting data on population characteristics and growth. As a result of this research, Missouri has now started their first black bear hunting season. SCIF also supported grizzly and brown bear research in Alaska and British Columbia and have an active program supporting conflict mitigation in the western United States.
While funding and scientific research are critical for wildlife corridor development, it is also important to educate local communities and collaborate with stakeholders and private land owners on the importance and benefits of wildlife corridors. We are proud of SCI North Florida Chapter’s support for this important conservation work, and SCI will continue to work for sustainable, state-led, and hunter-accessible corridors as we stand First for Hunters.