Ducks Unlimited, in partnership with the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and South Florida Water Management District, recently applied for a second North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant to protect 2,002 acres of native prairie and associated wetlands on the Triple Diamond Ranch and enhance wetland hydrology on 3,237 acres of wetlands on the Gardner Cobb Marsh in peninsular Florida.
Protection efforts will focus on purchasing a conservation easement over the southern 2,002 acres of the 7,985-acre Triple Diamond Ranch, expanding the 1.4 million-acre Everglades Headwaters Conservation Area.
Identified as having some of the highest quality native prairies on private lands in the state, Triple Diamond Ranch contains numerous significant natural communities, including dry prairie, basin marsh, depression marsh, dome swamp, wet prairie, mesic hammock and swales or sloughs. The Gardner Cobb Marsh lies in the crucial Kissimmee Chain of Lakes watershed, an area historically channelized and ditched to dehydrate expansive areas of wetlands. The proposed contract work includes enhancing drainage crossings, adding a water-control structure to increase water delivery to the system and installing ditch plugs. These improvements will allow the South Florida Water Management District to increase water retention to provide crucial habitat for waterfowl and waterbirds and control non-native, invasive species. Extended hydroperiods will also assist in maintaining or improving existing water quality in the Okeechobee watershed and the Everglades.