Drew property contains a significant tract of high-quality longleaf pine sandhill habitat, likely one of the largest tracts in private ownership remaining in the region. The 150-acre sandhill occupies dissected ridges and swales that roughly parallel the river, and support a multi-aged longleaf pine stand with ample seedling regeneration. Intact native ground cover vegetation shows no signs of significant ground disturbance or invasive non-native species. The existing gopher tortoise population was first documented in the 1980’s. About 200 acres contains successional hardwood forests following decades of fire suppression and historic clearing. These areas are prime for restoration; timber and fire management will restore structure and integrity of native woodlands and suitable habitat for at risk species. Importantly, there are no infestations of invasive species or other huge impediments to ecological restoration.
The Drew property is a significant private land tract in single ownership bordering the Suwannee River. With over 1.5 miles of river frontage, the property supports native hardwood forests, sinkholes, and other karst features. Notably, there are three named artesian springs on or adjacent to the property, underscoring the presence of sensitive karst substrate and the Florida aquifer. Most of the riverfront features high bluffs, and there are about 40 acres of low wetlands connected to the River. This riverine and wetland habitat is home to many aquatic species of the Suwannee River system, including the Federally-listed Gulf Sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus desotoi), soon to be listed Suwannee alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys suwanniensis) and critically endangered Suwannee moccasinshell (Medionidus walkeri). The latter two species are documented adjacent to the Preserve.
Along the 1.5 miles of Suwannee riverfront it contains, the Drew property contains two small named artesian springs: Running and Hidden Springs. One spring vent has a nearly 90 foot long spring run connecting to the river. A third spring, Cow Springs, abuts the western property boundary and is owned by the National Speleological Society. The well-explored Cow Spring cave system extends underneath the Drew property. Cave divers have documented several state listed species including the pallid cave crayfish (Procambarus pallidus) and cave amphipods. Dye trace studies have connected Cow Spring and Running Spring on the Drew property.
A wildlife corridor is a tract of land that connects different wildlife habitats (such as refuges, parks, or rivers) that might otherwise be separated by human development. Wildlife corridors provide many benefits to wildlife. With corridors, animals have a better opportunity of finding the basic necessities they need—food, water, shelter, and places to raise their young. Animals that require larger territories can access new habitats and maintain a healthy territory size. Wildlife corridors also promote genetic biodiversity. When more individuals of a species are interconnected, the gene pool becomes larger and more viable. Migratory wildlife benefit from corridors because they can move safely over long distances without having to come into contact with human developments or cars. Species are more likely to survive disturbances by having more undisturbed areas.
The Drew property is in the State designated Florida Wildlife Corridor (FLWC, Figure 2). The FLWC is a proposed network of connected natural and rural lands, often referred to as the “blueprint” for landscape conservation in Florida. Lands within the FLWC that are not already protected are priority for conservation as directed by recently passed State legislation: The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act. Priority lands extend along the Suwannee River, connecting existing conservation areas and liking large natural landscapes of the Upper and Lower Suwannee River Basin.