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A state land purchase will preserve thousands of acres along a pristine Peace River tributary

Aerial photo of Horse Creek
Carlton Ward Jr.
/
Florida Wild
The state Department of Environmental Protection and Southwest Florida Water Management District have purchased the development rights of undeveloped land as a buffer for Horse Creek.

The state has agreed to preserve more than 16,000 acres of land along Horse Creek in Hardee and DeSoto counties. It's considered one of Florida's most pristine creeks.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and Southwest Florida Water Management District have purchased the development rights of undeveloped land asa buffer for Horse Creek.

It's a tributary of the Peace River, which provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people. Keeping these wetlands safe from development is considered crucial to the health of the downstream Charlotte Harbor estuary.

It's located within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which is part of a network of connected environmentally sensitive lands.

The property contains several threatened species, including the gopher tortoise, Eastern indigo snake, Eastern diamondback rattlesnake, and the Florida burrowing owl.

Water district officials thanked the Doyle Carlton family for agreeing to the deal, which allows them to continue ranching but prevents development. It protects nearly 11 miles along Horse Creek.

“Preservation of this hydrologically important land helps increase the protection of Florida’s unique natural landscapes and wildlife habitats, as well as water quality,” DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton said. “We are grateful to the dedicated ranching families like the Carlton family for their commitment to conserving these vital working lands in perpetuity.”

The purchase price for this conservation easement was $37,818,750 and once the Southwest Florida Water Management District finalizes their purchase of the ranch’s remaining acres, the Horse Creek Ranch Florida Forever project will be complete.

Map of the Horse Creek Ranch property
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Map of the Horse Creek Ranch property

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