New Private Land Stewardship Funding Opportunities with Sentinel Landscape Designation

The 2020s have brought their share of challenges but, for landowners in the Red Hills, they have also delivered a host of land stewardship funding opportunities. Millions of dollars of financial resources have swept into our region thanks to the hard work of Tall Timbers and its many partners, providing direct assistance to landowners looking to improve and conserve their land.

Zach Butler, the Madison County forester, Becc Armstrong from Tall Timbers, and a private landowner discuss land management options on private property in Madison County, Florida.

Florida Sentinel Landscape Designation

The most recent opportunity came in the form of the Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscape Designation from the U.S. Department of Defense. This designation, which encompasses all of the Florida Panhandle from the Perdido River in Escambia County to the Aucilla River in Jefferson County, was announced in February 2022.

The Sentinel Landscape Designation is the result of hard work by Kent Wimmer with Defenders of Wildlife. Kent brought together more than 20 partner organizations, including Tall Timbers, to support the designation and highlight its potential for the region. The designation is popular because it increases access to federal, state, local, and private programs focused on land conservation and habitat management.

The Department of Defense – A Partner in Land Conservation and Management

So why is the Department of Defense so interested in land conservation and management? Besides being one of the largest conservation landowners in Florida, the Department of Defense needs to ensure that its missions can continue. Northwest Florida contains a variety of military installations, all of which prefer to conduct their training missions over lightly populated landscapes, for obvious reasons.

The Department of Defense and the United States Department of Agriculture have worked together across the country on Sentinel Landscapes to create buffers around military installations. Through this program the agencies and their partners create new opportunities for private landowners to conserve natural resources, adapt to climate change impacts, and bolster forestry and agricultural activities.

Natural Resources Conservation Service–Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Do these federal program opportunities sound familiar? They should. Tall Timbers has been leading a 5-year, $7 million effort to purchase conservation easements, and help fund landowner stewardship activities within the Aucilla and St. Marks River watersheds of Florida and Georgia. Tall Timbers applied for this opportunity through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service–Regional Conservation Partnership Program (NRCS–RCPP), and we have already worked with close to fifty private landowners.

Peter Kleinhenz, with two Georgia landowners, discussing land management options for their property in Brooks County, Georgia.

Planned work over the next year, with funding from NRCS–RCPP, includes removing dense infestations of invasive species, planting hundreds of acres of longleaf pine, and burning over 2,000 acres. Landowners involved with these management activities will have 75% of their costs reimbursed, enabling them to get more done for their land with less money.

Tall Timbers continues to apply for more funding to help private landowners manage and conserve their properties. Over the next few years, these efforts will result in more resources to draw from than ever before.

Just as the Department of Defense wants to preserve its ability to complete its missions, Tall Timbers constantly strives to enhance its ability to complete its mission—to foster exemplary land stewardship through research, conservation, and education.

To learn more about the Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscape, explore this Story Map created by Kent Wimmer with Defenders of Wildlife.

Northwest Florida Sentinel Landscapes Map

If you are interested in land stewardship resources through the NRCS-RCPP program, please email Tyler Macmillan to learn more.






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