One of the country’s most unique and diverse landscapes, this region has been a priority for conservation for decades. It is one of the last remaining strongholds for the imperiled longleaf pine ecosystem. Osceola is also the northern hub of the Ocala to Osceola (“O2O”) corridor, a critical linkage within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.


The Conservation Fund has worked for years to conserve critical lands around Osceola National Forest. In 2023, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), we completed a multi-year effort to protect roughly 14,000 acres known as the Suwannee River Woodlands. Purchased from two willing landowners, we sustainably managed the lands as a working forest during our ownership. Now in USFS ownership, the lands will be restored to their historic longleaf pine ecosystem. The effort builds upon the successful protection of roughly 9,800 adjacent acres that were transferred from the Fund to USFS in 2018. In total, The Conservation Fund has protected a connected landscape of more than 23,000 acres in this area; and we have completed additional projects in Georgia around the Okefenokee Swamp and the Suwannee River.

Credit: The Conservation Fund

The protection of these properties was made possible through our Working Forest Fund® — an innovative program dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies, and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests across America. Proceeds from The Conservation Fund’s first-ever green bonds enabled us to protect these 14,000 acres. Funding for the land’s permanent protection was provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Felburn Foundation.

Credit: Stacy Funderburke


The subject tracts protect the headwaters of the Suwannee River – the second largest river in Florida and one of the largest remaining free-flowing (undammed) rivers in the Southeast. The Fund has worked over the last 20 years to protect the watershed of the Suwannee, from its headwaters to its estuary on the Gulf of Mexico. The protection and restoration of this project will expand these efforts, helping to filter the waters in which tens of thousands of people fish and recreate and supporting climate resiliency.

The land also provides habitat for numerous species, including Florida black bear, gopher tortoise and wood stork; and are critical to efforts to restore longleaf pine. Once restored to longleaf — one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems in the world — other species associated with this ecosystem will begin to return. Longleaf pine ecosystems provide habitat for 29 threatened and endangered species and more than 900 plants found nowhere else in the world. Longleaf forests also provide clean air and water and can act as an economic driver for local communities. This project will advance regional efforts to protect and restore 8 million acres of significant longleaf pine ecosystems across the Southeast.

This map shows northern Florida in 1988 when Osceola National Forest and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge were not connected. The Pinhook Purchase Unit is now more than 80% protected, creating an ecological corridor that spans more than 700,000 acres of conserved lands. Map courtesy of USFS.

Few projects have generated such support and synergy as the effort to connect Osceola National Forest and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. More than 30 years ago these two conservation areas were not connected. Numerous activities — from mining to development — threatened to cut them off from each other. In 1988, the USFS and numerous state, federal, and non-profit partners began to build that connection by protecting lands within the “Pinhook Purchase Unit.” With The Conservation Fund’s transfer of these latest properties, more than 80% of the forest has now been protected — a rare and significant milestone and one of the great success stories of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.