The Trust for Public Land Announces Acquisition of 1,272 Acres in Wolfe Creek Forest

Property Will Expand Recreational Opportunities, Prevent Land Use Conflicts with Naval Air Station Whiting Field, and Further Longleaf Pine Restoration

October 17, 2019
Santa Rosa County, FL

The Trust for Public Land today announced that another 1,272 acres of forestland within the Florida Forever Project Wolfe Creek Forest has been acquired and added to the Blackwater River State Forest. The acquired property includes frontage on Wolfe Creek and protects hardwood forests on Big Coldwater Creek – a state-designated paddling trail and widely used creek that supports kayaking, tubing, and canoeing by community members. The acquisition furthers a private-public effort to reestablish longleaf pine in its historic range.

This acquisition will also better assure uncompromised naval air base operations at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field and protect water sources, public recreational activities, bird migration, and habitat for endangered species and other wildlife. The Trust for Public Land purchased the property on September 30 from Kingfisher Timberland, LLC and sold it for $3.4 million to Santa Rosa County, Florida, on October 17th, which will in turn donate to the State of Florida.


“This acquisition protects over two miles of hardwood forest land along Wolfe Creek and will be added to the Blackwater River State Forest assuring continued operations at NAS Whiting Field by precluding incompatible development, while promoting eco-tourism and protecting the natural resources on the property. This is a great example of collaborative private-public partnerships furthering both base buffering and conservation and recreation goals and filling in gaps of resource management areas. We thank our partners the Navy, Florida Forest Service, Santa Rosa County Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” said The Trust for Public Land Senior Project Manager Doug Hattaway.

Funding for the acquisition came from the U.S. Forest Service through the Forest Legacy Program administered by the Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the U.S. Navy through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program. The Forest Legacy Program aims to protect America’s forest lands, water quality and provide wildlife habitat, forest products, and opportunities for recreation and other public benefits.  The Forest Legacy Program is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program that directs a portion of leases from offshore energy extraction to secure public lands and waters at no taxpayer expense.  The REPI program increases military readiness on installations by preventing incompatible development that hinders training and operations.

Protecting the property ensures that land adjacent to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field will not be incompatibly developed in ways that may limit flight operations and vital military training.  NAS Whiting Field is the busiest aviation complex in the world, accounting for nearly one million annual flight operations including primary flight training and advanced helicopter training for more than 1,200 students. All Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard helicopter pilots are trained at NAS Whiting Field, and approximately 600 new helicopter pilots are winged annually. The base supports almost 16,000 local jobs and is a vital economic engine for the area with more than $1.43 billion in economic impact on the local economy.  

“NAS Whiting Field continues to enjoy an outstanding community-military partnership with the State of Florida and its numerous stakeholders.  Through these partnerships we have been able to safeguard more than 7,000 acres to protect a mission that has a tremendous impact toward meeting DOD’s National Military Strategy.  Our joint efforts have been fundamental in encouraging compatible land development, conservation of public and private lands and base buffering initiatives,” NAS Whiting Field Commanding Officer Capt. Paul Bowdich stated.  “These additional, 1,200 plus acres are located underneath flight track training profiles and are within a military airport influence area.  The execution of this project complements our efforts to sustain military mission training and preserve the environment in perpetuity.” 


“This land acquisition further aids in prioritizing the protection of Florida’s vital ecological and economic resources. The Florida Forest Service will manage the tract as part of the Blackwater River State Forest by applying sound forest management practices, including the use of prescribed fire. “Restoring the natural longleaf pine forest and the use of prescribed fire will greatly improve wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire threats and aid in water quality,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service.


“Santa Rosa County is very pleased with the announcement by The Trust for Public Land acquisition of 1,272 acres in Wolfe Creek Forest. The County and NAS Whiting Field have worked on this project for many years and it would not have been possible without The Trust for Public Land stepping forward and making this a reality,” said Commissioner Don Salter of the Santa Rosa County Commission, “The acquisition will allow the County to continue to preserve some of the most valuable natural resources and further the land buffering around NAS Whiting Field from incompatible development. Once again Santa Rosa County is very blessed to partner with The Trust for Public Land.”


The Trust for Public Land will continue working with partners on conservation efforts as future acquisitions remain a top priority.


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