Water conservation

The Nature Conservancy: TNC and partners conserve Ravensworth Farms

October 19, 2021

The conservation easement on Ravensworth Farms prohibits development and maintains critical habitat and natural systems in the Arbuckle Creek watershed

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TNC and partners completed protection of the vital and diverse landscape of Ravensworth Farms, a 1,069-acre working cattle ranch located along the eastern edge of the Lake Wales Ridge in Highlands County, Florida. The conservation easement placed on the ranch permanently prohibits development on the property while allowing livestock operations to continue uninterrupted.

Property protection by TNC preserves the ranch’s role as part of the connected corridor of critical lands that benefits wildlife and supports water flow and storage in the Arbuckle Creek watershed, a critical component of the organization’s mission in Florida.

The property is a key part of the network of ecologically important and protected properties in the region. Ravensworth Farms is bordered by other conserved land and Arbuckle Creek to the east, which separates the property from the 106,000 acres Avon Park Air Force Range. The property is integral to the quality of the water flowing into the creek and south to Lake Istokpoga. It is fueling efforts to protect and buffer the Kissimmee River and other tributaries of Lake Okeechobee, and ultimately the Everglades.

The conservation easement on Ravensworth Farms provides protection for a variety of important habitats, including swamp pine, as well as iconic wildlife like the Florida panther, Florida Black bear, Bald Eagle, Southeast Fox Squirrel, Gopher Turtle, Crested Caracara and Roseate Spoonbill.

“Obtaining a conservation easement on Ravensworth Farms is integral to our continued effort to conserve land and water resources essential to the health of the environment, wildlife, economy and people of Florida. Land and water that would otherwise be threatened by development and other non-conservation uses, “said Temperince Morgan, executive director of TNC Florida.” We are grateful to the landowners for their commitment to conservation and thank our partners at US Air Force/ Department of Defense and USDA Natural resource conservation services, as well as our donors, for their tremendous support in this common mission of conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. “

The $ 2.99 million conservation easement purchase — which was funded by TNC donor funds and awards from US Department of Defense (DoD), through the implementation by the US Air Force of DoD Integration of environmental preparedness and protection (REPI) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural land easements (ALE) Program — is the most recent in a series of conservation easements acquired by TNC. This acquisition will maintain the natural agricultural condition of the parcel, maintain and conserve the water quality of the wetlands and limit any development of Ravensworth Farms.

“These easements preserve the integrity of family farms and ranches and prevent development while protecting the quality of the environment and supporting military readiness,” said Juan Hernandez, Florida State Curator at the NRCS.

“Our family has cherished this land for nearly five decades and we knew it was important to conserve the natural resources that are unique to the property,” said David Dalton, President of Ravensworth Farms, Inc. “We are happy to be able to working with TNC, DoD and NRCS to protect our heritage with a conservation easement to protect it from future developments. “

With the property’s location on the western shores of Arbuckle Creek and its large portion of Palmetto Creek flowing east into Arbuckle Creek, the protection of Ravensworth Farms moves forward water conservation efforts. TNC and its partners continue to work to protect the watershed, which has faced threats from high-intensity agriculture and overdevelopment.

The protection of Ravensworth Farms territory builds on TNC’s decades-long history of effective conservation efforts in the area. This includes the culmination, just over a year ago, of the protection of the 5,100 acres Chevron T Ranch. Rafter T Ranch is about a mile and a half south of Ravensworth Farms, connected by a ranch protected by a conservation easement owned by the USDA NRCS. This region of central Florida is part of the Everglades watershed, which contains some of the state’s oldest natural habitats and most biodiverse land and is essential for aquifer recharge and water supply. of the Everglades.

The protection of Ravensworth Farms supports the concerted conservation effort designated by the Sentinel Landscape of the Avon Park Air Force Range (APAFR) in which the property is located. Known for its rich biodiversity within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and conservation area, the 1.7 million acres are a high priority for improving the quality, quantity and storage capacity of water, outdoor recreation and education.

“The conservation easement on Ravensworth Farms is a prime example of the power of partnerships and the goals of the APAFR REPI and Sentinel Landscape programs. It showcases years of hard work and a rare opportunity to win, win, win, ”said Charles ‘Buck’ MacLaughlin, Range Operations Officer, Avon Air Force Range. Park. Promoting cattle operations on Ravensworth Farms while preserving wetlands and important habitat protects the resilience of the entire region. It benefits APAFR’s own internal conservation efforts and ensures consistent land use within the range’s military training footprint.

Protecting Ravensworth Farms strengthens alignment between DoD’s REPI and NRCS ALE programs. The requirements, goals and funds of each agency have been combined to support the same conservation effort, achieving results that meet the needs of both agencies – conservation of agricultural land and water resources and strengthening of the Force’s mission. air defense by protecting the land around high-value military tests. and training area.

This press release was produced by Nature conservation. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.

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