FloridaTrend | SPOTLIGHT | August, 2023, Art Levy
The Horse Creek Ranch Conservation Easement Deal, costing $51 million and spanning more than 16,000 acres across DeSoto and Hardee counties, ranks as one of Florida’s biggest single conservation agreements in 20 years. As part of the easement, the Carlton family-owned ranch will continue to be used to raise cattle while the land will be permanently protected from development.
The tract includes 4,000 acres of wetlands and more than 12 miles of frontage along Horse Creek, a tributary of the Peace River, which supplies drinking water to more than 1 million Southwest Floridians. The deal was funded by both the state of Florida (11,958 acres) and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (4,357 acres).
“Horse Creek Ranch is critical to the health of the Peace River and the Charlotte Harbor Estuary, one of the most important recreational fisheries in the state and a primary economic engine of Southwest Florida,” says Julie Morris, who helped broker the deal as director of the Florida Conservation Group and a program manager of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “The property is also an important part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, serving as a keystone for wildlife-ecological corridors connecting the Peace River and Myakka River watersheds and providing opportunities for panthers, bears and other species to move and persist in an otherwise rapidly developing region.”