Florida Conservation Group Celebrates Approval of Watershed Conservation Easements

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Deer Creek Ranch and Quail Creek Ranch Conservation Easements Receive Approval from Governor and Cabinet at June Meeting

More than 8,500 acres in the Myakka and Peace River watersheds will now be preserved forever thanks to the Florida Cabinet’s approval of two conservation easements at its June 12th meeting. The Florida Conservation Group partnered with the state’s Florida Forever program and cattlemen in two southwest Florida counties to achieve these key purchases.

Conservation easements were approved for 2,649 acres on Quail Creek Ranch in Hardee County and 5,934 acres on Deer Creek Ranch in DeSoto County. The additional conservation easements, in combination with existing protected lands in the Myakka River watershed and Peace River Valley are creating a connected mosaic of working lands planned by Julie Morris, executive director of Florida Conservation Group in Myakka City.

“This region is so important to Florida’s conservation and water resource protection goals,” said Morris. “The Department of Environmental Protection has obligated major funding and attention to these rivers, their wetland systems and the working lands that protect the watershed. We’re so grateful to have agency partners and landowners committed to this effort.”

Quail Creek Ranch, in southwest Hardee County, serves as a testament to the rich biodiversity and ecological significance of the region. This property not only expands a corridor of connected conservation lands from Horse Creek to the Myakka River, but also plays a pivotal role in protecting the health of the Myakka and Peace River watersheds. The ranch’s unique position along an upland crest between two watersheds functions as a bridge for hydrologic resources and endangered species habitat.

The Deer Creek Ranch conservation easement was also approved today and marks another milestone in FCG’s ongoing efforts to protect the Peace River Valley and its surrounding ecosystems. This now protected landscape is crossed by several sloughs and tributaries that contribute to both the drinking water quality of the Peace River watershed and supports diverse wildlife habitat.

“As a passionate agricultural landowner, cattleman and conservationist I am honored to have the opportunity to protect such an important part of our beautiful state,” said Patrick Hill, owner of Deer Creek Ranch. “Being a native Floridian, I have seen many changes and the loss of huge swaths of native habitats in my lifetime. Florida’s indigenous and imperiled species rely on these natural habitats and corridors for their survival. As our state continues to become more developed, it is such a huge relief to know the Florida Forever program will ensure the native habitats and species remain protected on this land for perpetuity.”

Both the Quail Creek Ranch and Deer Creek Ranch projects figure substantially within the larger framework of FCG’s regional conservation efforts. These initiatives not only contribute to the expansion of protected lands and wildlife corridors but also play a crucial role in preserving water quality, biological diversity and a thriving rural economy.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Florida Forever program and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) play a pivotal role in protecting Florida’s once-vast farm and ranchlands.

“FCG is extremely grateful for the visionary leadership of both the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,” said Julie Morris, Executive Director of Florida Conservation Group. “Their unwavering support for the protection of Florida’s natural and agricultural landscapes has been instrumental in the long-term preservation of Peace River Valley and all the benefits it contributes to our water, wildlife and food supply.”

FCG remains steadfast in its commitment to partnering with state agencies, landowners and stakeholders to ensure the long-term sustainability of Florida’s natural resources.