Land Bought for St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge

The St. Marks Wildlife Refuge has just received 2600 acres of prime black bear habitat. The nature conservancy helped purchase the land this week from the St. Joe Company. It means more land to preserve and more wildlife to protect. A valuable piece of the puzzle is finally in place, adding more natural beauty to one of Florida's gems.

It's a place where birds of all sizes flock, colorful wildflowers bloom and the sounds of silence can be heard for miles. The St. Marks Wildlife Refuge is nature's sanctuary.

Bronwen Pitman and her sister are first time visitors at the refuge. While marveling at the scenery, a nearby ranger explains the lay of the land, a mosaic of habitats that was just expanded by some 2600 acres thanks to a $3.56 million purchase by the Nature Conservancy, property that the Nature Conservancy will sell to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage and maintain.

"It contains good wildlife habitat and it's a good watershed for management of fresh water impoundments here," says Jeff Howland, assistant refuge manager.

Howland says the purchase is good for the environment and good for visitors. The property is home to many black bears and the Florida trail also crosses through the land. Fish and wildlife officials say they'll make their first purchase this month of about 1200 acres, then the next buy will likely come next summer.