A Conservation Win In Sarasota County As Orange Hammock Ranch Is Permanently Preserved - WUSF Public Media | Tampa NPR, Local News Coverage

A Conservation Win In Sarasota County As Orange Hammock Ranch Is Permanently Preserved

Orange Hammock Ranch in North Port consists of 5,777 acres of pristine habitat with more than 200 wetlands intermixed with pine flatwood, globally-rare dry prairie and other scrub and oak forests. SRQ360 Photography

The largest undeveloped property in Sarasota County will remain untouched as conservationists have sealed the deal on a decades-long quest to preserve the nearly 6,000 acres of land.

In February, the Florida State Cabinet voted to purchase Orange Hammock Ranch in North Port for $21 million. As part of the deal, the state agreed to spend $19.5 million in Florida Forever conservation money. For its part, The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast pledged to raise the remaining $1.5 million by June 1st.

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Just over two weeks ago, the foundation’s president, Christine Johnson, acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic had slowed down fundraising efforts.

But a last minute push proved successful. On Friday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced the permanent protection of the 5,777-acre property.

“This is a significant moment for land conservation,” said Johnson. “The community stepped up. We are grateful and humbled by the support, receiving more than 750 gifts of all sizes from across the region.”

Environmentalists have long had their eyes on Orange Hammock Ranch because of its proximity to other preserved lands in the Myakka River watershed.

The land is home to wetlands, rare habitat, and endangered species.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission will manage the ranch as a wildlife management area and the preserve will be open to the public.

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