Osprey, FL (May 29, 2020) The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announces the permanent protection of the 5,777-acre Orange Hammock Ranch in Sarasota County, within the city of North Port. Conserving Orange Hammock Ranch has been an environmental priority for decades, critical to the region’s drinking water supply and providing vital habitat for threatened wildlife. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) will manage the ranch as a wildlife management area (WMA) with eagerly anticipated public access.
In February, the Florida State Cabinet voted to purchase Orange Hammock Ranch contingent upon Conservation Foundation’s pledge to raise part of the funds. Florida Forever funds contributed $19.5 million, and Conservation Foundation raised $1.5 million to complete the purchase. Conserving Orange Hammock Ranch has been a major priority for Conservation Foundation since its inception 17 years ago. The Foundation succeeded in getting this property added to the Florida Forever list in 2013, and worked to build public and political support since then.
“Land conservation must be a cornerstone of our environmental initiatives. The Orange Hammock acquisition is critical because it protects 5,777 acres of natural, pristine Florida habitat and represents the largest undeveloped property left in Sarasota County. The Department is proud to be a partner in this project that will protect this ecologically diverse tract for future generations,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein.
President of Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast Christine Johnson stated, “This is a significant moment for land conservation. The community stepped up without hesitation to raise the final $1.5 million needed. We are grateful and humbled by the support, receiving more than 750 gifts of all sizes from across the region. Our deep gratitude goes to the Felburn Foundation; the Floyd C. and Flo Singer Johnson Foundation; Gulf Coast Community Foundation; James Ericson; Bob and Joan Geyer; Skip and Jan Swan; Steinwachs Family Foundation; The Gardener Foundation; The Jelks Family Foundation, Inc.; Tom and Gwen Watson, and two anonymous donors, who all made leadership gifts.”
The ranch is located on the north side of Interstate 75 within the City of North Port. It connects RV Griffin Preserve with the Longino Preserve through about six miles of shared boundaries, and increases the 120,000-acre buffer surrounding the Myakka River and strengthens the connection between the Myakka and Peace Rivers. Immense volumes of rainfall collect on the property and feed the Snover Waterway and RV Griffin reservoirs, both of which are critical sources of North Port’s clean drinking water.
The property is also nearly pristine, with natural areas in better condition than many public lands. Over 200 wetlands are intermixed with pine flatwood, globally-imperiled dry prairie and other native habitat. Given this location and exceptional natural condition, the conservation of Orange Hammock Ranch will have sweeping benefits for regional connectivity, water quality, public recreation, and wildlife habitat. This vast land is home to quail, indigo snake and the Florida black bear. Importantly, the property is connected with 120,000 acres of protected land, making it viable habitat for Florida panther, which are now breeding in nearby Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.
About DEP/Florida Forever Program
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship, protecting Florida’s air, water and land.
The Florida Forever program is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving natural resources and renewing Florida’s commitment to conserve the state’s natural and cultural heritage. Florida Forever replaces Preservation 2000 (P2000), the largest public land acquisition program of its kind in the United States. With approximately 10 million acres managed for conservation in Florida, more than 2.5 million acres were purchased under the Florida Forever and P2000 programs. Since the inception of the Florida Forever program in July 2001, the state has purchased more than 770,279 acres of land with a little over $3 billion. Learn more at www.floridadep.gov.
About Conservation Foundation
Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast protects land and water in Southwest Florida for the benefit of people and nature. Working with landowners, businesses, and government, Conservation Foundation saves land forever, protecting those special natural lands that make this region extraordinary. A nationally accredited land trust, the Foundation purchases natural areas, holds land conservation agreements and educates for responsible land and water stewardship in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier County. Their headquarters, Bay Preserve at Osprey, was purchased in 2006 with help from Florida Communities Trust, a program under Florida Forever. Learn more at www.conservationfoundation.com.