Expedition team exits an eco-passage connecting Nokuse Plantation with Eglin AFB for wildlife
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Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in Walton County, 2015

For three years, the expedition that started in 2012 has been slowly coming my way, as I've learned more about what it does and why. My current explanation is this. If you were a wildlife creature that needed to freely roam and you were boxed in, your kind would die out. When we plan our natural spaces, we need to provide paths to connect the spaces. If you were a bear, fox, snake, or maybe even a panther and you smelled something good on the other side, wouldn't you like to go under Highway 331 (four lanes) instead of dodging traffic?

A group of three tremendous people is walking the walk and talking the talk, for connecting wild lands in Florida. When they came into my area, there were several opportunities to meet them. I went to Trail Mixer #7, Coastal Dune Lakes Paddle, on February 28. On March 3, I met the team on the Florida Trail coming west to Hwy 331 and joined Nokuse land manager Matt Aresco to visit a wildlife eco-passage under the highway that connects Nokuse and Eglin Air Force Base. I had seen two of the three the eco-passages during construction of the two-mile segment of the Florida Trail to the west. Learning about the project from the source was wonderful.

I've seen the excellent movie from the first expedition that started in south Florida, ending at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The second expedition, called "Glades to Gulf", started this year and came through my area. Without the original member Elam Stoltzfus, the 3-person team treks, paddles and bikes on the Florida National Scenic Trail and related waterways and roads. Two others in my movie are support and contact. Their roles, expertise, and names are:

tracks on the passage under Highway 331
Wildlife tracks under Highway 331


BYOM (bring your own music) to walk on land near the Florida Trail with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition on March 3, 2015. Trekkers Mallory, Joe and Carlton met with Matt Aresco (land manager of the Nokuse Plantation) where a wildlife underpass connects Nokuse with Eglin Air Force Base at US Highway 331. If wind muffles their words, here is what they said.

Dimmitt, "We started at the Everglades headwaters and we're going to Gulf Islands National Seashore with the idea that these lands are still connected. It is our goal to see that wildlife is protected and connected with the existing connected areas."

Aresco, "DOT came to us. They wanted to widen this (highway) segment. We exchanged money they would pay us for the right of way they needed for the wildlife underpasses."

Guthrie, "It sounds like there was almost no difficulty in negotiating the deal? Aresco, "There wasn't much publicity so that was good. There was no resistance at all."

Ward, "In Pinellas county, we have a few wild spaces left that are in no way connected with the other wild spaces. Here you still have chance to keep these coastal wild spaces connected up to the wildlife corridor north, in the upper watershed. That is a rare thing, to have coastal and interior wild spaces still connected. Fast forward 10 years here and that could be the case without vigilance to keep the corridors connected."

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These views of the Florida National Scenic Trail are from NW Florida, the panhandle. Back to Florida National Scenic Trail views.

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