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Collier County will spend $720,624 in Conservation Collier funds to purchase nine properties to increase conservation areas and protect panthers, black bears and other wildlife habitats.

County commissioners on June 11 approved purchasing the properties, which range from 1.14 to 10 acres, with price tags ranging from $24,910 to $141,340. Most parcels will be purchased for 95% of their appraised values, according to two county-hired independent appraisers.

The properties were approved as A-list properties by the Conservation Collier Land Acquisition Committee.

Nine of the properties are within Gore Preserve, which was established in 2018 and now totals 220 acres, which is about 55% of the intended project area, county Development Review Director Jaime Cook told commissioners. The preserve, which is just north of Interstate 75, is in southern Golden Gate Estates and DeSoto Boulevard runs through the middle.

Cook said the remaining property will add to Red Maple Swamp, which was established in 2005 off Shady Hollow Boulevard in northeastern Golden Gate Estates.

Five parcels totaling 16.03 acres are within Gore Preserve and for the first five years, annual maintenance costs are estimated at $32,750, but will drop to $3,206 yearly after restoration. Four other parcels totaling 18.46 acres are within Gore Preserve and Red Maple Swamp Preserve areas. Maintenance costs for the first five years are estimated at $36,088, but will decrease to about $4,508 annually after restoration.

Gore Preserve and surrounding lands enhance the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge by providing a buffer and a large wild land addition north of I-75. The land also supports Everglades mink, tricolored heron and little blue heron—all state-protected species. Potential public uses at Gore Preserve include hiking, nature photography, bird watching and environmental education.

Since 2003, the taxpayer-funded Conservation Collier program has purchased 4,714 acres and created 22 preserves for conservation and to protect water quality and wildlife habitat. Conservation Collier also has provided recreation areas, including Freedom Park, Pepper Ranch and Gordon River Greenway. As of June 11, the estimated property acquisition costs, including these purchases and others under contract, total $122,696,701.

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