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Split Oak Forest by David Moynahan
Split Oak Forest by David Moynahan, FWC

Yesterday, we delivered nearly 1,000 signatures to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), representing our members and supporters who oppose the release of a perpetual conservation easement over the Split Oak Forest Wildlife and Management Area. During the public meeting, over 70 speakers signed up with an overwhelming majority talking about their connection with Split Oak Forest and expressing adamant opposition to the release. Due to the large number of speakers, each person was given one (1) minute to provide their comments. If you have given public comment before, you know this is a hard task especially if you prepared for the standard three (3) minutes. 

During the meeting, staff acknowledged the most southern alignment would be the least destructive to wildlife by AVOIDING Split Oak Forest. However, the alignment on the table supported by Osceola County and the Central Florida Expressway is NOT the avoidance alignment.  

One significant change leading into the FWC meeting was the change in Orange County’s position. On November 28, 2023, the Orange County Commission voted to no longer support the pending application before Florida Communities Trust (FCT) and FWC. As one of the two entities who originally requested the release and now have changed their position, many would have thought that would put the project on pause.

Please take a moment to thank Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Commissioners Nicole Wilson, Mayra Uribe, Maribel Gomez Cordero, Emily Bonilla, and Mike Scott.   

Following the last public speaker, the FWC Commissioners went into discussion. In summary, they had not heard about Split Oak until last week. Because of all the excellent comments providing additional facts and insights, Commissioners like Preston Farrier and Gary Lester had more questions, expressed concerns, and wanted to learn more. In the end, the Commissioners voted to direct Executive Director Young and FWC staff to continue negotiating the details with the Central Florida Expressway (CFX) and come back to the Commission for a final vote, at a later date (TBD).  

Thank you to everyone who signed the petition, made phone calls, and attended the public meeting. The Federation, with your support, is committed to stopping this precedent-setting issue of statewide significance.  

To stay informed on next steps, please sign up for our newsletter. 

To learn more about Split Oak Forest please visit our conservation partners page Friends of Split Oak.

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