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The Florida Governor and Cabinet this week approved the preservation of more than 8,300 acres through four cost-effective conservation easements, which prevent future development of the land and allow agricultural operations to continue to contribute to Florida’s economy.

The purchases are 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. These partnerships increase the total land preserved by the program to over 50,660 acres through 45 conservation easements.

Since 2011, the current Governor and Cabinet have approved the acquisition of 38 projects totaling more than 47,000 acres, a more than 1,000-percent increase in acres preserved by the program.

“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 partner with farmers and ranchers to preserve the invaluable pieces of our rural economy and environment to help preserve what makes Florida such a special place to live.”

Today’s easements include: Goolsby Ranch in Highlands County, Howze Ranch in Manatee County, Sampala Lake Ranch in Madison County and Rodman Planation in Putnam County.

The Governor and Cabinet partnered with the United States Air Force to purchase the conservation easement for Goolsby Ranch in Highlands County, which will preserve the ranch’s 4,476 acres of working row crops, dairy and cattle operations. Goolsby Ranch is within the designated sentinel landscape of Avon Park Air Force Range, acting as a military base buffer, and is crucial for protecting military training missions. It is also located within the Bombing Range Ridge Florida Forever Project and connects neighboring conservation easements.

The Governor and the Cabinet partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture to purchase the conservation easement for Howze Ranch in Manatee County, which will preserve the ranch’s 929-acre Commercial Crossbred cattle operation. A majority of the ranch is kept in native condition for free-range grazing. Howze Ranch is located within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever Project, and it provides vital habitat for native wildlife.

The purchase of an additional 1,400 acres on Sampala Lake Ranch will bolster the preservation of the working cattle ranch’s natural resources. This conservation easement is adjacent to another RFLPP easement within this project. This property combines open space, aquifer recharge and working agricultural lands with wildlife corridors.

The purchase of a conservation easement at Rodman Plantation in Putnam County will preserve 1,583 acres of high-quality silviculture and working cattle operations. This property provides vital habitat for native wildlife and connects agricultural lands with wildlife corridors.

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.

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