By Pam Eubanks, Senior Editor, YourObserver.com
Wearing his cowboy hat, cattle rancher Jim Strickland rolled through pastureland on the 4,500-acre Blackbeard’s Ranch in eastern Manatee County in his pickup truck.He nodded toward the window. About 50 feet away, deer walked along the tree line, barely noticing the truck had stopped. On the other side of a fence, another deer bounded across the open field.
“Look at that,” he said, smiling. “A good cattle ranch is conducive to a great wildlife base.”
Strickland said the property is also home to panthers, gopher tortoises and up to 170 species of birds. The variety of grasses, plants and wetlands work together to create a diverse, food-rich environment.
Strickland, a lifelong Manatee County resident and managing partner of Blackbeard’s Ranch, is working to preserve nature. In 2018, the National Resources Conservation Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, purchased a “wetland reserve easement” on about one-third of the Blackbeard property for $3.9 million. It guarantees the land will be saved from development.