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Purchase approved for vast wildlife area

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 14, 2001

TALLAHASSEE -- The governor and Cabinet approved spending almost $60-million to create the largest wildlife corridor east of the Mississippi River. Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet voted to buy 57,379 acres in the Pinhook Swamp in northeast Florida from Rayonier Inc., a timber company.

The deal, negotiated by the Nature Conservancy, connects the Osceola National Forest in Florida with Georgia's Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the adjoining Dixon Memorial State Forest to create a conservation area of more than 795,000 acres, an area larger than Rhode Island.

In Pinhook, which lies about 50 miles northwest of Jacksonville, there are wetlands that provide the headwaters to both the Suwannee and St. Marys rivers. It is prime habitat for black bears, bobcats, sandhill cranes, red-cockaded woodpeckers and other animals.

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