Outdoor Fund helps create largest conservation easement in Ducks Unlimited history

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Customers support “once-a-generation” habitat donation

The Kissimmee Prairie – a unique landscape of vast grassland, pines and wetlands – stretches across central Florida in the Everglades headwaters, making it one the most important ecosystems in the southeastern United States. Facing increasing pressure from development, a substantial tract of this iconic Florida prairie and wetlands habitat has been permanently protected through a unique partnership between Ducks Unlimited (DU), the University of Florida, and the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund.

Starting with the generosity of Elisabeth DeLuca, 27,000 acres of the Kissimmee Prairie landscape was gifted to the University of Florida, simultaneously donating a permanent conservation easement over the land to national conservation organization Ducks Unlimited. Through a multi-faceted partnership, the University of Florida will use the newly created DeLuca Preserve as an ecological research station that includes education, outdoor engagement and working-lands conservation.

The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund provided critical funding via the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to help endow Ducks Unlimited’s permanent conservation easement and other costs associated with this once-a-generation gift of land. Notably, the easement is the largest in the 83-year history of Ducks Unlimited.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Ducks Unlimited and the University of Florida to help conserve this outstanding habitat, which will serve as a true showcase for how wildlife management, water conservation and ranching can thrive together,” said Bob Ziehmer, Senior Director of Conservation at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. “We are grateful to our customers who, by rounding up purchases in our stores and online to the Outdoor Fund, directly support key conservation projects like this.”

Teeming with Wildlife

This property, along with other state and federal lands, comprise 250,000 acres of protected areas across the Northern Everglades Headwaters, which provide an important ecosystem for wildlife corridors, watershed protection, flood mitigation and endangered species habitat. Rare and notable species who call the DeLuca Preserve home include the Florida grasshopper sparrow, red-cockaded woodpeckers, sandhill cranes, northern crested caracaras, Florida scrub-jays, gopher tortoises, burrowing owls, eastern indigo snakes and a rare skink and wildflower. Florida black bears and panthers traverse the property, which also includes vast open wetlands and wet woodlands. 

“Located between a global tourism destination, with the Turnpike as a boundary, the DeLuca Preserve is an epic win for conservation, and an international model for research, education and outreach,” said Adam Putnam, Ducks Unlimited CEO.