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Hillsborough purchases land along the Little Manatee River for preservation

Little Manatee River
Wikimedia Commons
Little Manatee River

Commissioners voted to buy a 487-acre ranch, creating a continuous corridor of preserved land along the Little Manatee River.

Hillsborough County commissioners this week voted to buy a tract of land that will create a continuous corridor of preserved land along the Little Manatee River.

The purchase is the latest in a series of land acquisitions along the largely undeveloped river.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to purchase the 487-acre ranch. It borders the Little Manatee River.

The money — about $11 million — will come through ELAPP, the county's Environmental Land Acquisition and Protection Program.

Commissioner Stacy White has been part of a team working on buying the ranch, and says it will connect to large preserved areas just to the south in Manatee County.

"With all of the open land and preserved land in northern Manatee County, we can really connect some wildlife corridors that begin to have a true regional impact," White said.

It will be adjacent to a 79-acre sod farm purchased by the county in September as part of an expanded preserve along the river.

Commissioner Mariella Smith nominated the former cattle ranch for purchase through the ELAPP program before she joined the board.

"This parcel connects other preserves, making a huge wildlife corridor from the upper Little Manatee River south, past the county line, to some other preserves in Manatee County," Smith said.

Smith said this is a critical step in getting the federal government to declare the Little Manatee a "Wild and Scenic River,"which would give added protection to the area.

Map of the purchased ranch
Hillsborough County
Map of the purchased ranch

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.