tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Sunday, Jun 25, 2017

Wildlife corridor team given warm send-off

More than 100 well-wishers sent “explorers” on their way across Florida when guests gathered recently to send off the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition team.

The kickoff event, hosted by The Florida Aquarium, came two days prior to the Jan. 10 start of 70-day trek, 1,000-mile trip — now underway — from the Everglades headwaters at Creek Ranch on Lake Hatchineha to Gulf Islands Natural Seashore at the Florida and Alabama border.

The new expedition is designed to expand public awareness and generate support for a connected Florida Wildlife Corridor. It will focus on issues of ecological importance, from longleaf pine restoration and the health of the Gulf fishery to the survival of the Florida black bear.

The route takes the group across the Green Swamp, up the Nature Coast to the Panhandle, said Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, a member of the team.

The trip is much like the group’s first expedition, when they traveled from the Everglades National Park to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia during a 100-day trip. This trip, by hiking, biking and kayaking, ends March 20.

“Some of the land is already protected but we wanted to draw attention to what needs to be done,” to keep wildlife corridors open, she said.

Joe Guthrie, another team member, said it was his role to design the route, and he will focus particularly on bears and their habitats.

Team member Carlton Ward Jr., a well-known nature photographer, wants the trip to spur the state “to still be investing in actual land conservation. There are some specific gaps to be filled.”

For information on the wildlife corridor and the expedition, see floridawildlifecorridor .org/about-expedition.

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