The Devil’s Garden


"As he drove, MacAllen watched the steaming flat landscape and was reminded why this land was called the Devil's Garden. There was little beyond forsaken scrub with alligators and swamp. Only fifty miles from Miami, here was some of the wildest land in the United States." Excerpt from the 65th Octave.

Much of my novel, The 65th Octave, takes place in the Devil's Garden, an incredibly wild part of South Florida. This is beautiful land that I tromped for many years with my kids. I truly believe that the times we shared in this wilderness had much to do with their becoming dedicated to nature's conservation, independent, clear thinking and strong.

Now the Nature Conservancy seeks Florida Forever status for part of this region. Here is an article dated Monday, September 23, 2002 that explains.

See also this link to map http://www.naplesnews.com/02/09/graphics/23garden-big.JPG – By ERIC STAATS, emstaats@naplesnews.com

Early Florida botanist John Kunkle Small was so struck first by its endlessness – a vast amphitheater with ever-changing views of cypress strands and flat prairies, he wrote in 1923 for the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden.

Almost 80 years later, Devil's Garden still is attracting attention, this time as part of an effort to preserve habitat for the endangered Florida panther northeast of Immokalee in Collier and Hendry counties.

Leading the effort is The Nature Conservancy. The nonprofit group is pushing a proposal to put some 82,000 acres of Devil's Garden, now owned by LaBelle-based agribusiness giant Alico Inc., on the Florida Forever list of public land acquisition projects.

The state's Acquisition and Restoration Council voted in July to take a closer look at the land. ARC is scheduled to set the new Florida Forever list priorities in December. From there, the list goes to the governor and cabinet for approval.

The land represents the largest block of contiguous habitat yet proposed for Florida panther conservation efforts along a corridor that stretches from the Big Cypress in Collier County to south-central Florida.

"This piece is really very critical," said Lincoln Boorman, Southwest Florida land acquisition coordinator for The Nature Conservancy.

The corridor is a recently discovered route for young male panthers crossing the Caloosahatchee River to claim their own territories. Besides that, the Devil's Garden tract is the last piece of a 150,000-acre puzzle being assembled with state land purchases in Hendry County. It would give panthers just what they need: room to roam.

More than animals would benefit. The purchase also would protect lands that are important water-flow connections to the headwaters of the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve and eventually the Ten Thousand Islands.

Some 5,000 acres of the tract extend into the far reaches of Collier County, where county commissioners recently approved a new plan for controlling growth.

Alico was among the landowners who paid engineering and planning firm Wilson Miller to devise the plan, which rewards landowners for preserving land by awarding development credits for use elsewhere.

Alico's chief financial officer, Craig Simmons, said last week that the company is willing to entertain an offer from the state for the Devil's Garden property.

"Until we see an offer, we don't have much to say about it one way or the other," Simmons said.

In February, the state agreed to buy 21,675 acres known as Dinner Island, next to the proposed Devil's Garden purchase, from Hilliard Bros. in Clewiston for $35.4 million.

Tens of thousands of acres of the proposed Devil's Garden purchase remain in their natural state. Other parts have been converted to pasture for cattle ranching, and still other areas are used to grow vegetables, according to The Nature Conservancy proposal.

Much of the property is permitted for citrus or row crops, paving the way for more clearing.

If the land is ever put into public hands, it could become a place for public recreation, from hunting to bird watching, Boorman said.

"It could be a phenomenal resource for people in Southwest Florida," he said.

I believe that this project is true Inspired Investing, the public getting together and spending dollars to assure that our kids and grandkids will enjoy the same vast natural resources that were passed to us. Anything you can do to encourage this type of preservation will bring rewards far beyond our expectations.

Until next message may all your investing be good!

Gary


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