A friend and colleague of mine is using his photographic and visual story-telling skills to help communicate the importance of Florida’s ranching heritage within the perspective of conservation. The video below is a taste of a larger project he’s working on with many others to conserve 150,000 acres of headwaters to the Everglades, and the ranchlands within them. The safeguarded area would create the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. This is a unique project being pushed by some in Florida for the Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire the development rights of large ranches and other lands, while allowing the ranch owners and landowners to continue their traditional ranching or agricultural practices. By placing these lands in conservation easements, the Everglades Headwaters will be protected from further development too. (And in a state known for selling off its natural assets, this is a big deal.) These ranches aren’t used only by people and cattle — wildlife flock to them too.
My friend, photographer Carlton Ward, has been experimenting with camera traps on many of these ranches for the past few years. The result has been a series of fabulous photos of rare Florida panthers, large black bears and their cubs, bobcats and foxes. These critters travel across the ranchlands and use them as both home and a wildlife corridor. An amazing camera trap photo of Carlton’s, of a black bear exhaling a fine mist in a cool dawn, graced the cover of Audubon magazine this month, and more were printed within.
Watch this video for more information on the proposed Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. To see the Florida panther photo, and to learn more details, read this in-depth op/ed Carlton wrote for the St. Petersburg Times. More information and videos are available at NorthernEverglades.com.