September 26, 2016

DIXIE COUNTY, Florida—The Lyme Timber Company LP (Lyme) and The Conservation Fund announced today the protection of 8,138 acres of forestland under a conservation easement in the lower Suwannee River basin. This conservation success is the first phase of an ongoing effort with county, state, federal and private partners that intends to protect an expansive 46,500 acres for the benefit of wildlife, watersheds and local economies. 

Located adjacent to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge and the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, the 8,138-acre property is part of the 46,500-acre Lyme Cross City Forest, which is owned by an investment fund managed by Lyme Timber. With funding from The Florida Forever program, Lyme and The Conservation Fund sold a working forest conservation easement to the State of Florida, which permanently limits development on the property while allowing for sustainable timber harvesting.

The easement will not only protect critical wildlife habitat as well as water quantity and quality flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, it will also help preserve the community’s way of life by keeping the land on the tax rolls and local forestry jobs while maintaining the strong local hunt club tradition.

“The timber industry is Dixie County’s largest employer. This easement will ensure that important forestry jobs stay in the community while protecting the sensitive forested wetlands on the property. We are grateful to the Department of Environmental Protection for their work on the project,” said Tom Morrow, a Managing Director with Lyme Timber.

A high priority for the State of Florida, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Dixie County, the conservation of the entire Lyme Cross City Forest, if successful, will create a contiguous area of 196,000 acres of protected lands that provide critical water resources and sensitive habitat near the Suwannee River and Gulf of Mexico. Funding for future conservation easements could come from state and federal agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program and/or the Gulf Coast’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe-related funding.

The Conservation Fund has worked for more than a dozen years to protect land within the watershed of the Suwannee River, including the 32,000‐acre California Lake Conservation Easement, in partnership with the Suwannee River Water Management District.

“Large, intact, privately-held forests play an important role in providing clean air and water, wildlife habitat and economic benefits to communities in Florida. This project is critical to the health of the Lower Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico and will help increase coastal resiliency to major storm events,” said Lauren Day, Florida Representative with The Conservation Fund. “Conservation of the entire Cross City Forest will be a significant private-public undertaking, and we are grateful for the ongoing support of our local, state, and federal partners and Florida’s U.S. Congressional Delegation.”

The future conservation of Cross City Forest will protect freshwater inputs that drain into the Suwanee River—the largest undeveloped river delta system in the nation—and the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, which is one of the most extensive submerged seagrass meadows in continental North America. The lands provide sensitive habitat for an abundance of wildlife, including the threatened gopher tortoise and indigo snake as well as Gulf sturgeon, Florida black bear, and a host of migratory and resident birds.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 7.8 million acres of land. 

About Lyme Timber
The Lyme Timber Company LP is a private timberland investment management organization with a long track record of acquiring and sustainably managing lands with important conservation values. Lyme is the manager of investment funds that own approximately 95,000 acres Florida’s Big Bend region.

Media Contacts:
Robin Murphy | The Conservation Fund | 202-465-0111 |
Liz Adams | The Lyme Timber Company | 603-643-3300 x1105 |