On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet approved two Florida Forever land acquisitions and agreed to acquire a conservation easement that will protect natural environments in Manatee, Sarasota and Columbia Counties. The properties acquired on Tuesday will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“The protection of our environment and vital water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state,” said DeSantis. “Today’s land acquisitions give us another opportunity to address these issues in a meaningful way.”
“As a major link to conservation efforts, Florida’s land is of the utmost importance to our environmental initiatives,” said DEP Sec. Noah Valenstein. “Today’s approvals will protect Florida for generations. The Orange Hammock acquisition protects 5,777 acres of natural, pristine Florida habitat and the largest undeveloped property left in Sarasota County. By continuing to invest in these projects, we are prioritizing Florida’s future as our population continues to rapidly grow. I thank Governor DeSantis and the Cabinet for consistently supporting our efforts to preserve biologically diverse ecosystems and keeping both eyes on the environmental future of our state.”
“We are grateful for the support and leadership of Governor DeSantis and the cabinet for conserving these natural lands,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “Each tract has tremendous ecological value and also represents increased access for the benefit of our citizens and visitors.”
“We are so pleased the governor and his Cabinet voted today to protect this property forever for drinking water, rare habitat and for the public to enjoy,” said Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast President Christine Johnson. “We are grateful to DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein and his team for making this happen. The protection of Orange Hammock Ranch has been a priority for Conservation Foundation along with the community for many years. We are also thankful to Eric Sutton, executive director of FWC and his staff for their willingness to step forward and manage the property for public nature-based recreation. Conservation Foundation is honored to lead the charge to bring community support to the table.”
The first approved parcel of land is approximately 5,777 acres within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever project in Sarasota County, with FWC being designated as the managing agency. This the largest undeveloped parcel remaining in the area and is critical for the overall protection of the area’s drinking water supply, as it enhances the sustainability of the water resource by restricting development, preserving the natural systems, promoting water retention and storage, filtration, and aquifer recharge.
The second approved parcel of land is approximately 17-acres within the Strategic Managed Area Lands List (SMALL) Florida Forever project and will become an addition to River Rise Preserve State Park. Columbia Spring, located on the subject parcel, is where a portion of the Santa Fe River emerges from underground. Acquisition of this parcel will protect the prominent hydrological features of the Santa Fe River system, Columbia Spring, and its spring-run stream.
DeSantis and the Cabinet also agreed to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 559 acres within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever project in Manatee County. The parcel is located within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever project, ranked number 4 in the Florida Forever Less-Than-Fee project category. This property is adjacent to Flatford Swamp, owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which is an important aquifer recharge area and surface water feature for the headwaters of the Myakka River corridor.