The University of Central Florida and the Legacy Institute for Nature and Culture will spread the word of an opportunity Florida has to maintain a corridor of preserved land and waterways that would run from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia.

An event being held at the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, will feature a panel of explorers who traversed 1,000 miles across the proposed corridor and a showing of the documentary they made that tells the story of their expedition. The event is free and open to the public.

Bear biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr., and cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus embarked on the 100-day journey through the wildlife and participating farms and ranches to raise awareness of the potential to establish a viable, continuous wildlife corridor across the state.

“The corridor concept is to physically link various preserved land areas and waterways all the way from the Everglades to southern Georgia,” said Patrick Bohlen, director of the UCF Arboretum and Landscape & Natural Resources. “There really is an opportunity to one day walk from the Everglades to Southern Georgia and stay on either conservation land or ranchland that has conservation value but is in private hands.”

Bohlen said that while some of the land the team traveled across was private ranchland, if a concerted effort were made to protect chunks of land from development, other areas could be preserved to establish a fully connected corridor.

“The early pioneers in Florida carved lives out of the wilderness, and these new pioneers are finding a way of carving wilderness out of what’s left,” Bohlen said. “Florida has a great opportunity to do that, and if we throw the idea out there that we could have 20 million-plus people in the state and still have this kind of corridor, and have the two compatible, while there will obviously be a lot of pressures, it’s very doable.”

Following the opening reception at 5:30 p.m., the team’s documentary, Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: Everglades to Okefenokee, will be screened. At 7:30 p.m. following the film, three of the four members of the expedition will be on hand for a panel discussion to provide further comment on the corridor concept and answer questions about the opportunity Floridians have to establish a wildlife corridor.

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