White Oak Conservation
Twelve miles of the St. Marys River winds through one of the world’s premiere wildlife conservation facilities — White Oak Conservation located in Nassau County, FL. The 17,000-acre wildlife preserve is devoted to preserving threatened and endangered species, as well as the spacious, natural habitat they live in. The river greatly benefits from White Oak’s stewardship, as White Oak’s inhabitants benefit from its clean, unpolluted waters.
“Our natural areas and forests are home to a plethora of native wildlife and plants, and White Oak serves as a keystone property, protecting the St. Marys River and the watershed from development and pollution,” according to Steve Shurter CEO, Executive Director White Oak Conservation Foundation.
White Oak, which is a part of Walter Conservation, has long been dedicated to the conservation and care of wildlife, including rhinoceros, okapi, bongos, zebras, condors, dama gazelles, cheetahs and — coming soon — elephants. It’s easy to forget you are in Northeast Florida and not on an African safari when touring this unique and beautiful space,
The land was originally acquired in 1938 by the Gilman family and in 1977 Howard Gilman established its original program for the conservation and propagation of imperiled species. In March 2013, Mark and Kimbra Walter purchased the property. Their enterprise, Walter Conservation, pioneers conservation efforts world-wide through innovative science, breeding, species reintroduction, anti-poaching strategies, education programs and collaborations with other conservation groups and government efforts.
In addition to its primary mission of caring for endangered wildlife, White Oak is equally committed to caring for its natural property and setting an example for others. The staff maintains numerous food plots on the property for native wildlife.
“As stewards of the environment, we are entrusted with protecting these lands as habitats by carefully managing this treasured space today,” Shurter said. “We recognize that in order to serve our mission, we need to operate daily in a sustainable manner.”
In partnership with the St Marys Riverkeeper and Keep Nassau Beautiful, White Oak hosts the annual river clean up and Earth Day Celebration. Each April the event recognizes the many cleanup volunteers who step up and help keep the river trash free.
“This is an important connection between our community and the river, celebrating the beautiful and important natural resource right in our backyard,” Shurter said.