TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Commissioner Wilton Simpson announced the protection of of 13,371 acres of Florida ranchlands through the the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. With today’s approval by the Governor and Cabinet, approximately 13,371 acres of working agricultural lands will be preserved through cost-effective agricultural conservation easements totaling $36,754,000. Agricultural conservation easements prevent future development of the land and allow agriculture operations to continue to contribute to Florida’s economy and the production of food, timber, and other resources vital to the prosperity of Florida.
“Today’s partnerships with Buck Island Ranch and Adams Ranch protect over 13,000 acres of agriculturally productive, economically significant, and environmentally rich Florida ranchlands,” said Commissioner Wilton Simpson. “These partnerships also represent a historic moment for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, as nearly 100,000 acres of working agricultural lands, and their economic and environmental benefits, have been preserved for future generations. I appreciate Governor DeSantis and my fellow Cabinet members for their support of this program and the preservation of these critically important lands.”
Once finalized, these projects represent the 68th and 69th Rural and Family Lands Protection Program conservation easements, with a total of approximately 99,951 acres preserved through the program.
Adams Ranch is located on the south shore of Lake Marian in Osceola County, and the property being conserved is an 8,881.74-acre portion of the ranch. The current agricultural activities on the property include a low intensity cow-calf operation, cattle ranching, sod harvesting, native plant material for landscaping harvesting. The project site is enrolled in the FDACS Best Management Practices (BMP) program and is located within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Adams Ranch is one of the top producing cow-calf ranches in the United States. Additionally, it was the winner of the Sustainable Rancher Award in 2014, as well as the Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award, and the Landowner of the Year Award. This is the fourth conservation easement on the property and protects 60 percent of the ranch.
Buck Island Ranch
Buck Island Ranch is located in southeast Highlands County, and the property being conserved is a 4,490-acre portion of the ranch. The current agricultural activities on the property cattle grazing and research as part of the Buck Island Ranch operations
and consist mainly of improved pastures. Buck Island Ranch is one of the top producing cow-calf ranches in the state of Florida. The project site is enrolled in the FDACS Best Management Practices (BMP) program and is located within the Florida Wildlife Corridor. This is the second conservation easement on the property and completes the preservation of the project.
Established in 2001 with the passage of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Act, the program recognizes that working agricultural lands are essential to Florida’s economic future. Agricultural lands are being increasingly threatened by urban development. To counter this trend, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program coordinates with farmers and ranchers to ensure sustainable production practices while protecting natural resources. Commissioner Simpson recently highlighted the historic interest in the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and the results of the 2023 application cycle. Landowners from over 180 properties – representing over 200,000 acres – submitted their application to be considered for funding.
Commissioner Simpson has been involved in Florida’s land conservation policy issues long before becoming Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture. As Senate President, Simpson championed the successful passage of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which directed the state of Florida to better protect and connect Florida’s natural areas and wildlife habitats and to preserve working agricultural lands from future development.
A story map of all completed Rural and Family Lands Protection Program projects can be viewed here: FDACS.gov/RFLPPMap.