A 1,536 acre Conservation Easement is proposed for purchase from Adams Ranch, and a 322 acre Conservation Easement is proposed for purchase from Camp Lonesome Ranch. Both of these ranch properties contain an assemblage of important and biologically diverse imperiled wildlife, rare native Florida prairie and range lands, and a landscape-sized wildlife corridor connecting other managed lands. These easement tracts contain wetlands and sloughs that drain into Lake Marion and eventually the Kissimmee River System and intact dry prairie/pine flatwoods habitats.
The purchases are possible due to the Rural and Family Lands program in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Audubon originally proposed this program in 2001, and has been campaigning to increase funding for the program over the past three years. Rural and Family Lands easements contemplate allowing compatible ranching activities to continue on properties, while assuring wildlife habitat protection by removing rights for other kinds of development. An advantage of the easements is lower initial purchase cost, minimal ongoing public management expenses, and working ranches will remain on the property tax rolls while the natural assets of the easement areas are protected.
The easement areas are both inside the boundary of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, and established Florida Forever project boundaries for Adams Ranch and the Big Bend Swamp/Holopaw Ranch Florida Forever Project.
In addition to support for the easement purchases on the agenda, Audubon Florida is asking the Governor and Cabinet to support increased funding for the Rural and Family Lands Program and other programs that specifically benefit the Northern Everglades. See the letter from Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper here.