The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: Everglades to Okefenokee was a 1,000 mile expedition over a 100-day period launched on January 17, 2012 to increase public awareness and generate support for the Florida Wildlife Corridor project. Bear biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus and photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr. trekked from Everglades National Park toward Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia. The trio traversed the wildlife habitats, watersheds, working farms and ranches, that comprise the Florida Wildlife Corridor opportunity area. They traveled on foot, mountain bike, standup paddleboard, kayak, horseback, and occasionally swimming.
Ward Jr. projected that there would be 300 miles of paddling, about 500 miles of hiking, and some mountain biking and horseback riding over the course of the exploration.
The team documented the corridor through photography, video streams, radio reports, daily updates on social media and digital networks, and a host of activities for reporters, landowners, conservationists, politicians and other guests.  The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition was intended to bring awareness and political action to ensure that the corridor is protected. The documentary film ‘Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: Everglades to Okefenokee’ by Elam Stoltzfus captures segments of the trip and stop along the way with naturalist, landowners, and tribes.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor was founded by Tom Hoctor, Director of the Center for Landscape and Conservation Planning at the University of Florida and Carlton Ward Jr, Conservation Photographer and founder of the Legacy Institute for Nature & Culture (LINC). Their vision and collaboration was inspired by the bear research of David Maehr and the commitment of his students, Wade Ulrey and Joe Guthrie, to continue his legacy.
The project was inspired partly by Lawton Chiles, a former U.S. lawmaker from Florida who promoted his 1970 Senate bid by hiking 1,003 miles from Pensacola to Key West. The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition says it is only borrowing his method, not his political motivation as they address the fragmentation of natural landscapes and watersheds in central Florida.
Filmmaker, producer and director Elam Stoltzfus made a documentary film about the trip. He also made a documentary film about Clyde Butcher (Living Waters: Aquatic Preserves of Florida). Butcher appears in the Florida Wildlife Corridor Exhibition discussing photography with Carlton Ward Jr., the trip’s photographer.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor project is a collaborative vision to connect remaining natural lands, waters, working farms and ranches from the Everglades to Georgia, protecting a functional ecological corridor for the health of people, wildlife and watersheds. By presenting Floridians with a look into their own backyards, the team hopes to increase awareness of the concerning issue and ultimately accomplish the following goals:
- Protect and restore habitat and migration corridors essential for the survival of Florida’s diverse wildlife, including wide-ranging panthers, black bears and other native species
- Restore water flow to the Everglades and sustain water supply to southern Florida
- Continue to safeguard the St. Johns River and water supply for central and north Florida
- Sustain the food production, economies and cultural legacies of working ranches and farms within the corridor
- Bolster local economies through increased opportunities such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching and other forms of eco-tourism
- Give wildlife and plants room to adapt to a changing climate and sea level rise
The Florida Wildlife Corridor launched January 17, 2012 from Flamingo in Everglades National Park and ended on Earth Day – April 22, 2012 – at Stephen C. Foster State Park in Georgia. During the 100-day journey the team traversed the Everglades ecosystem starting in Big Cypress Swamp, over to the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), back to the Okaloacoochee Slough, across the Caloosahatchee River, over to Babcock Ranch, and west along Fisheating Creek toward Lake Okeechobee. From Lake Okeechobee, the heart of the Greater Everglades system, the Expedition traveled up the Kissimmee River with excursions toward the Lake Wales Ridge, up the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, east around Orlando, and into Ocala National Forest. Once in the existing Ocala to Osceola corridor, the trip continued north in Georgia and into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.