GULF COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, has purchased a 578-acre parcel in Gulf County within the St. Joe Timberland Florida Forever Project.

“This land is one of the most undeveloped, diverse, productive, and economically important natural systems in the southeastern United States,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This acquisition will protect drinking water supplies, preserve the vitality and connectivity of wildlife habitats, and expand public lands access. This success is the result of cross-sector partnerships and dedicated coordination.”

“The permanent protection of Lake Wimico is a great example of Florida Forever dollars being used to protect numerous aspects of Florida’s resources,” said DEP’s Division of State Lands Director Callie DeHaven. “We’re proud that we were able to work with our partners to complete this important acquisition and look forward to continuing to build these types of partnerships to acquire additional lands for conservation and recreation.”

The property lies within the Apalachicola River and Bay watershed and expands on the state’s recent 20,168-acre addition to the Lake Wimico tract.

The project will be managed by FWC as part of the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area.

Florida Forever is the state’s conservation and recreation lands acquisition program.