The Governor and Cabinet today approved the preservation of 2,523 acres of environmentally sensitive land within Corona Ranch in Okeechobee County through cost-effective conservation easements, which prevent future development of the land and allow agriculture operations to continue to contribute to Florida’s economy. The purchase is part of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, where the state partners with Florida’s farmers and ranchers to preserve active agricultural operations and their immense economic and environmental benefits.
“With more than 1,000 people moving to Florida every day, we must continue to prioritize the conservation of our agricultural lands and world-renowned natural spaces,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, we’re partnering with farmers and ranchers to preserve these invaluable pieces of our rural economy and environment for future generations in a cost-effective way.”
The $5.7 million purchase will preserve 2,523 acres of the Corona Ranch in Okeechobee County. The Corona family began ranching in Florida after they moved from Cuba in 1961. Corona Ranch drains to the Kissimmee River which flows into Lake Okeechobee and is within the Lake Okeechobee Watershed and the recharge range for the Kissimmee River Basin. The ranch is located within the Lake Okeechobee Protection Area and the Northern Everglades Watershed. The ranch is within the Florida Wildlife Corridor and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Everglades Headwaters Conservation Area. It is home to many native plants and animals, some of which are listed as threatened and endangered species, and include: gopher tortoise, fox squirrels, and burrowing owls. The owners report three recent sightings of Florida panthers.
Today’s partnership increases the total land preserved by the program to 39,229 acres over 38 conservation easements. Since 2011, the current Governor and Cabinet have approved the acquisition of 31 projects totaling 35,644 acres, a nearly 1,000 percent increase in acres preserved by the program. Additional details on today’s purchases can be found here.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in 2001 to protect working agricultural lands threatened by other uses, such as development.
The goals of the program include:
- Protecting valuable agricultural lands;
- Creating conservation easements that ensure sustainable agricultural practices;
- Preventing conversion to non-agricultural land uses in the rural base of Florida; and
- Helping to protect natural resources in conjunction with these agricultural operations.
Florida agriculture has an overall economic impact estimated at more than $120 billion annually, making it the state’s second largest industry. The agriculture industry supports more than 2 million jobs in Florida.
More information on the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program is available here.