27,000 Acres of Wild Florida Protected in Osceola County
St. Petersburg, FL (December 14, 2020) – The late Fred DeLuca launched the Subway sandwich empire at age 17 with $1,000. Johnny Morris started Bass Pro Shops by selling fishing gear in the back of his father’s liquor store. Both grew into two of the world’s most successful businesses. But neither family was satisfied solely with triumphs in business, becoming important philanthropists.
Their philanthropic paths have crossed in Florida to the lasting benefit of conservation. Fred DeLuca’s widow Elisabeth has gifted 27,000 acres in the Everglades headwaters to the University of Florida, simultaneously donating a permanent conservation easement over the land to national conservation organization Ducks Unlimited (DU). Through a multi-faceted partnership, the University of Florida will use the property as an ecological research station that includes education, outdoor engagement and working-lands conservation.
As part of its $1 million “Florida Solutions Fund” commitment to the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund provided $100,000 to endow DU’s conservation easement and support other costs associated with this once-a-generation gift of land. “Johnny Morris has long been a supporter of Ducks Unlimited and conservation as a whole,” said DU CEO Adam Putnam. “Thanks to Johnny, the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, we were able to secure the largest conservation easement in our history. Our partnership with the University of Florida on the property will ensure the preservation of this land, and will enable our scholars to learn, teach and achieve for generations to come.”
“We’re thrilled to help conserve this outstanding habitat, which will serve as a national model showcasing 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.”
The DeLuca property includes 6,000 acres of high-quality prairie, one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country. Nearly half of the world’s remaining breeding population of Florida grasshopper sparrows are there.
“Over the past decade, our foundation has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to save the grasshopper sparrow from extinction,” said foundation president and CEO Andrew Walker. “Having the DeLuca property permanently protected is a tremendous step forward for the sparrow and the other rare and notable species found there.”
Those species include 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.
The foundation is committed to raising an additional $100,000 with DU to help manage some of these species and support DU’s increasing conservation presence in Florida, said Walker. He thanked Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for its critical gift. “Johnny Morris and his conservation team have been our best corporate partners in addressing south Florida’s most pressing conservation needs,” said Walker. “Whether it’s restoration of our coral reefs, outdoor programs for youth or protecting irreplaceable wildlife habitats like the DeLuca land, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s is always at our side.”
About Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s
Bass Pro Shops is North America’s premier outdoor and conservation company. Founded in 1972 when avid young angler Johnny Morris began selling tackle out of his father’s liquor store in Springfield, Missouri, today the company provides customers with unmatched offerings spanning premier destination retail, outdoor equipment manufacturing, world-class resort destinations and more. In 2017 Bass Pro Shops acquired Cabela’s to create a “best-of-the-best” experience with superior products, dynamic locations and outstanding customer service. Bass Pro Shops also operates White River Marine Group, offering an unsurpassed collection of industry-leading boat brands, and Big Cedar Lodge, America’s Premier Wilderness Resort. Under the visionary conservation leadership of Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops is a national leader in protecting habitat and introducing families to the outdoors and has been named by Forbes as “one of America’s Best Employers.”
About Ducks Unlimited
Ducks Unlimited (DU) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, other wildlife, and people. It has protected more than 12 million acres of waterfowl habitat in North America.