I relish the opportunity to get out and experience firsthand the places—and wildlife—that we at Defenders work so hard to protect. To spend a day exploring the habitat of panthers and bears, butterflies and salamanders, pines, palms and orchids, is truly a delight, and I know that not everyone is so lucky to have a job that combines their passion and their profession.
This month my work allowed me to join environmental photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr, bear biologist Joe Guthrie, filmmaker Elam Stoltzfuz, and refuge complex superintendent Kevin Godsea for a hike through the uplands and swamps of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. The 11 miles we trekked were just a small part of the 100-day, 1000-mile journey the men are taking through some of the state’s most wild places on what they call the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition.
The expedition is an effort to increase public awareness and generate support for establishing a Florida wildlife corridor that would protect and restore connected landscapes throughout the Florida Peninsula in order to create a viable link from the Everglades to Georgia. Such a corridor is critical for Florida wildlife like black bears and panthers, which need lots of room to roam. Unfortunately, that amount of land is no short order in an ever-developing Sunshine State, and the challenges involved are many. The good news is that many landowners are interested in maintaining their ranches in ways that also provide valuable wildlife habitat; the expedition hopes to increase awareness and support of ways to do so.
The expedition began on January 17 in Everglades National Park, and will take the travelers north through the state of Florida, ending in Georgia, just across the Florida border, at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Defenders supports this bold adventure as it inspires citizens and visitors to join all of us who are working to save the state’s native wildlife and the network of habitat they and we depend upon. Check out my footage from my incredible day on the trail and learn more about how you can follow the crew along their journey!
In March, Laurie and the rest Defenders’ Florida staff will welcome the crew of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition to the annual Florida Black Bear Festival in Umatilla. Stay tuned for details about the festival and the opportunity to hear from the trekkers themselves!