Today In Disney History ~ November 1st
“Home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, The Disney Wilderness Preserve is an essential part of the Everglades ecosystem and contains 3,500 acres of restored wetlands that act as nature’s “sponges” in the landscape capturing rain, filtering out nutrients and replenishing our ground water.
The core of The Disney Wilderness Preserve is comprised of what was once an 8,500-acre cattle ranch situated at the head of the Greater Everglades watershed. In the early 1990s, the ranch was slated for extensive residential and commercial development which would have spelled the end for the property’s degraded—but restorable—wetlands, as well as the destruction of significant habitat for endangered plants and wildlife.
Working with The Nature Conservancy, the State of Florida, and a number of other groups, The Walt Disney Company purchased the property to mitigate its expansion and transferred it to the Conservancy to create a nature preserve dedicated to wetlands restoration on an unprecedented scale. The transfer also helped mitigate future impacts associated with the development of Walt Disney World. The Walt Disney Company provided funds for restoration and wildlife monitoring on the property and continues to partner on a number of on-site projects.
In 1995, 3,000 additional acres were added by the greater Orlando Aviation Authority to mitigate for airport expansion, bringing the preserve to its current size.
The restoration of wetland and upland habitat has included the elimination of non-native, invasive plants and grasses, controlled burns among fire-dependent habitats and the mechanical removal of excessive shrub and tree growth.
Land that was heavily logged and ranched for decades has been restored to very near to its original state and once again resembles the descriptions left by the area’s first Spanish missionaries.
In 2012, regulators determined the restoration of The Disney Wilderness Preserve’s wetlands successful, making the project an unparalleled victory for conservation. The work done on the preserve is already improving the quality and quantity of water within the Greater Everglades watershed and has served as a springboard for the Conservancy’s effort to protect other ranches in the watershed and secure federal support for Florida conservation projects.
The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve 2700 Scrub Jay Trail Kissimmee, FL 34759
Call ahead to check trail access: (407) 935-0002″
TMSM Today in Graphic by Sherry Rinaldi DeHart; Info from www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/florida/placesweprotect/the-disney-wilderness-preserve.xml