Carlton Ward Jr. and the Florida Wildlife Corridor
Posted on November 18, 2020
Nature and wildlife photographer and National Geographic Explorer, Carlton Ward, Jr. spoke on “Path of the Panther” during a special live virtual presentation hosted by The Tampa Bay Trust Company for clients and guests as well as those of its sister division, The Naples Trust Company and its parent company, the Sanibel Captiva Trust Company. Approximately 130 households participated in the popular program.
Ward uses his photography to inspire conservation of his beloved home state’s nature and culture. Now embarking on his most important journey, he aims to accelerate the rate of conservation in Florida. His current project, Path of the Panther, focuses on one of the world’s most elusive and endangered carnivores to show how the Florida panther can help us save the Florida Wildlife Corridor and keep the Everglades connected to the rest of America.
Ward captivated guests from the first moment when he explained that he was on a field trip in the swamp the day prior and had actually been attacked by a large alligator. His bandaged hand and leg were a testament that his profession is not for the faint of heart. He took it all in stride with a chuckle saying, “I don’t think he actually wanted to eat me, but I surprised him – so things like this can happen.”
The one-hour program included the beauty of wild Florida including plenty of cattle and cowboys in Central Florida, third generation oystermen and ancient pine forests of the panhandle. The elusive botanicals of the Everglades were equally as captivating, such as the Ghost Orchid and the nighttime moths that pollinate them.
Ward’s love for Florida goes back eight generations. His great grandfather was the 25th Governor of this state, Doyle E. Carlton and one of the founders of Carlton Fields Law Firm in Tampa. Ward grew up in Pinellas County, but his family also had ranch land in Hardee County, so he appreciated both the land and the water. He stresses that ranching is a key part of Florida’s past, but also critical to Florida’s future and the corridor. Florida is losing 150,000 acres of ranch land per year to development, encroaching on the Florida Panther’s corridor territory, as well as that of hundreds of other species. Ideally, 4 million acres of contiguous lands are necessary to be connected to the corridor or the Florida Panther and many of Florida’s species will not only be at risk, but possibly lost.
The beauty of the water and wildlife of Florida is the very reason so many people have come to this place, and yet we are now struggling to save it. But Ward emphasizes that the two can live together if we give each other the space we need. “Nature and culture have a vital connection,” said Ward, “and people are shaped by the landscape they share.”
Click on the REPLAY Link to view the full Path of the Panther presentation. Learn more about how you can make a difference for the Florida Wildlife Corridor: Donate to Path of the Panther