All 55,000 acres of Nokuse Plantation now preserved in perpetuity, land can never be developed

Gannett staff report

FREEPORT — Nokuse Plantation officials have closed on a conservation easement on 1,600 acres, meaning all 55,000 acres of the nature preserve are now protected in perpetuity.

Nokuse (pronounced “no-go-see”) is the Creek Native American word for black bear. The black bear is an “umbrella species.” Habitats that support an umbrella species like black bears in turn support other plants and animals.

More (2019):State considers land purchases to expand Nokuse Plantation

A Florida National Scenic Trail volunteer cuts grass on the trail through the Nokuse Plantation.

The conservation easement — an agreement in which the state of Florida purchases the development rights to a property under the Florida Forever Program — means that the land never can be developed and will be forever kept in its natural state.

In a Facebook post announcing the conservation easement, Nokuse officials wrote, "Our founder MC Davis often said, 'We’re working on a 300-year project to restore Nokuse to its original ecological state' — this easement is an incredibly important step in this process."

Nokuse Plantation Director Matthew Aresco said easement is in line with the goal of restoring the land to the longleaf pine ecosystem.

"These were the last tracts of land that were not under conservation easement," Aresco said.

Matthew Aresco is director of the Nokuse Plantation.

An important feature of the conservation easements is that they tie the Nokuse Plantation to the Eglin Air Force Base reservation and Blackwater River State Park to the west and Choctawhatchee Wildlife Management Area to the east to create a contiguous forest area, Aresco said.

More:State considers land purchases to expand Nokuse Plantation

More (2018):Biophilia Center director receives award

"Our area has some of the highest biodiversity of lands in the United States. It's really rewarding to work out here every day on this land," Aresco said. 

Nokuse uses prescribed burns and planting of longleaf pines as part of the restoration process. Aresco and his team also works to restore wildlife, including the gopher tortoise, that has been almost wiped out in the past hundred years.

He also mentioned the flatwoods salamander, gopher frog and Florida black bear.

"All of these species are recovering on our land," he said.

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