Achieved! A Conservation Milestone
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection purchased Orange Hammock Ranch on May 29, 2020 with Florida Forever funds of $19.5 million and a community contribution of $1.5 million raised by Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.
Saving Orange Hammock Ranch was a conservation priority in our region for decades. The 5,777-acre Orange Hammock Ranch holds a trifecta of land conservation benefits - protects drinking water, preserves wildlife habitat, and provides extraordinary pubic access.
The ranch will be managed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission as a Wildlife Management Area.
The ranch is located north 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.
The Back Story
The property was identified by Sarasota County in 1998 as a critical natural protection area, and Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast added the property to the State's Florida Forever list of land acquisition priorities in 2014. Sarasota County and Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) have tried repeatedly to protect this property for decades. Since 2014, Conservation Foundation built public awareness and political support for its purchase.
Protecting Orange Hammock Ranch is part of our ambitious Myakka Island Conservation Corridor project, striving to preserve 10,000 acres in the Myakka River watershed. Join our conservation community and help us protect other critical natural lands, forever.
Landscape photos by SRQ360 Photography Rancher in Field by Debi Osborne