Through conservation easements, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program partners with Florida farmers and ranchers to preserve agricultural operations and their environmental benefit.
Recently, more than 3,700 acres of agricultural land in Osceola County was included in the program, which allows the land and agriculture operations to continue to contribute to Florida’s economy.
The perpetual conservation easements will preserve 528 acres of the Camp Lonesome ranch and 3,245 acres of Adams Ranch, both in Osceola County. The Adams Ranch conservation easement is the largest single easement in the program’s history and increases the total land preserved by the program to 18,378 acres.
“By partnering with Florida’s farmers and ranchers, we can preserve these invaluable pieces of our rural economy and our world-renowned ecosystem for future generations,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.
Adams Ranch was founded in 1937 and is a fourth-generation cattle business. The ranch is within the South Florida Water Management District's Northern Everglades & Estuaries Protection Program area and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. The property encompasses a large area of native “dry prairie” range and wetland marshes, as well as improved rangelands. Additionally, Adams Ranch 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
Camp Lonesome is a cow-calf operation located in central Osceola County. The ranch is also within the South Florida Water Management District's Northern Everglades & Estuaries Protection Program area and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. This property is comprised of managed native flatwoods and palmetto dry prairie, as well as large cypress-dominated swamp and smaller marshes. The native range and pastures are well managed with routine use of prescribed fire, which has produced rich groundcover that supports a diverse mix of rare species, including: gopher frog, Florida grasshopper sparrow, hooded pitcher plant, and burrowing owls.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in 2001 and since acquired 24 perpetual easements.