TALLAHASSEE – The St. Joseph State Buffer Preserve recently enlarged its footprint.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands, acting on behalf of the Governor and the Board of Trustees, recently announced the donation of a valuable piece of conservation land to the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve in Gulf County.

The 7.23 acre-property was donated by the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves, the non-profit citizens support organization for the Buffer Preserve.

The land is part of the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Florida Forever Project.

"This land will help protect one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in northwest Florida and one of the least disturbed coastal bay systems statewide," said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. "We thank the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves for their donation, partnership and dedication to protecting Florida's unique natural resources."

The wetlands within the acreage are critical to the ecosystem.

“Acquiring these lots will be very beneficial to the Buffer Preserve. Our staff constantly monitors the natural habitats of many plants and animals," said St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserves manager Dylan Shoemaker. "This acreage contains wetlands that are extremely important to cleaning waters which drain to the bay.”

Managed by DEP's Office of Reslience and Coastal Protection, St. Joseph Bay Buffer Project will protect the water quality and productive seagrass beds of the bay by protecting the undeveloped land around it, ensuring the survival of dozens of rare plants.

The land will become a buffer while providing opportunities for the public to enjoy the natural beauty of the bay.

“As President, and along with the entire Board, we are thrilled to be able to purchase these lots,” said President of Friends of the St. Joseph Bay Preserves Lynda F. White. “One of our major goals has been to assist in every way possible to increase the Preserves’ acreage. By doing so, we are investing in the future of St. Joseph Bay and St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve.”

Florida Forever is the state's conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.