A Florida man has spent $90 million of his personal wealth to create a nature preserve and protect threatened species of animals.
About 100 miles east of Pensacola, Florida, a former gambler and businessman has created an amazing gift to the planet and to future generations. M.C. Davis spent about $90 million of his personal wealth to buy up 54,000 acres of land — most of it from timber companies. He has turned the land into a private nature preserve.
“In the largest block of privately owned conservation land in the southeastern U.S., Davis is restoring ecosystems that agriculture and timbering have destroyed,” reports NPR.
In an attempt to restore the land to its original state as a pine forest, Davis has had about 8 million longleaf pine seedlings planted. The result? The land is returning the favor by becoming “a rich center of biodiversity,” and animals have returned. Some of the animals have been brought to the preserve by biologists, who are using the land as a safe haven for threatened species and other animals affected by suburban construction.
Davis, who grew up poor in the Florida panhandle, turned to gambling as a way to break free from his roots and make money. He later started buying up land and mineral rights, eventually making hundreds of millions of dollars.
But one night, in a rainstorm, Davis was stuck in traffic. He looked up and saw a marquee announcing a lecture on black bears. Curious, Davis pulled out of traffic, and stopped to hear the presentation. He ended up having an epiphany and decided to devote his wealth to protecting the land.
Sadly, 70-year-old Davis likely won’t see a new generation of children benefitting from his tremendous gift. He was diagnosed in November with Stage 4 lung cancer.
“I’m dying, as we all are. It’s well advanced,” he told NPR. “But hey, it’s just nature’s way.”
But Davis hopes future generations will continue his legacy. “No matter how stupid our species gets and how much it degrades this, it will start over. But I’m hoping that we’re capable of leaving some huge biological warehouses that — if and when our country fails, and all of them do sooner or later — that hopefully the impacts wouldn’t be total. That nature just doesn’t have to start from scratch.”
Do you have an Act of Male Goodness to share? Or know someone who should be profiled in this series? Email Kristi Dale ([email protected]) with ‘100 Acts of Male Goodness’ in the subject line.Photo: Matt Ozug, NPR/Twitter