In February, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet announced the approval of two Florida Forever land acquisitions. One of them was the Orange Hammock Ranch. This property has long been on the radar of environmentalists and was identified by Sarasota County in 1998 as a critical natural protection area. Sarasota County and Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) have also tried repeatedly to protect this property for decades.
The Florida Cabinet voted to purchase Orange Hammock Ranch contingent on the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast’s pledge to raise $1.5 million by June 1 to complete the purchase.
The Foundation explains that the Orange Hammock Ranch is located north of Interstate 75 in the City of North Port. It connects RV Griffin Preserve with the Longino Preserve through approximately six miles of shared boundaries, and strengthens the 120,000-acre buffer along the Myakka River and the connection between the Myakka and Peace Rivers. It is estimated that 60-75% of the property is wetland or within the 100-year flood plain. Immense volumes of rainfall collect on the property and feed Snover Waterway and Myakkahatchee Creek, both of which are a critical source of North Port’s drinking water. Hundreds of acres of wetlands are intermixed with pine flatwood, globally-imperiled dry prairie and other native habitats. This vast land is home to quail, indigo snake, the Florida black bear, and is a viable habitat for Florida panther which are now breeding in nearby Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.
On May 29th, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced the purchase to permanently protect the 5,777 acre Orange Hammock Ranch. Christine Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, thanked all those who donated to help reach the $1.5 million goal.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission will manage the ranch as a wild-life management area with public access.