Wild Florida panthers roam the southwestern tip of our state. To stay connected with their food supply and maintain their genetic diversity, they require a continuous swath of green space. The Florida Wildlife Corridor is a statewide network of public conservation and private working lands, encompassing 18 million acres inclusive of 75 state parks and trails, stretching from the Panhandle to the Everglades.
Arnie Bellini, co-founder of Tampa-based tech firm ConnectWise, is a philanthropist dedicated to protecting nature; he was instrumental in helping pass the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act (signed into law in June 2021). In April 2022, he funded a nonprofit foundation named Live Wildly, which primarily serves as a marketing campaign encouraging Floridians to get outside and connect with nature.
His foundation has evolved to encourage collaboration among the science, conservation, policy, and business communities. Meredith Budd, a Naples resident who has a passion for wildlife conservation, was hired as director, external affairs, earlier this year. Her expertise in both policy and conservation will lead the foundation’s effort to bridge the gap between lawmakers and environmentalists. Budd is excited about her role, especially promoting Florida’s wildlife superhighway, as it provides a winning solution for economy and ecology. “What’s good for the panther is good for all of Florida’s wildlife,” she believes.