From the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Turning down multiple offers from developers, owners of one of the last ranches of its size in Pasco County chose to preserve their land and way of life. Today, the Governor and Cabinet finalized that choice by unanimously approving the conservation of more than 600 acres of the Phillips-Mathis ranch and its active agricultural operations.
The conservation easements, which are a joint effort by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and Pasco County, protect working agricultural lands, and their environmental benefits, from residential and commercial development.
“By permanently conserving threatened agricultural lands, like the Phillips-Mathis ranch, we can preserve these invaluable pieces of our economy, culture and environment for future generations,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “With today’s addition, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program now preserves more than 14,600 acres from future development, while allowing the land and agriculture operations to continue to contribute to Florida’s economy.”
The Phillips-Mathis ranch is located in central Pasco County just west of I-75 and has been in the family for five generations, dating back to the 1860s. The property will be divided into two conservation easements. One easement will be purchased and monitored by Pasco County’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program and the other by the department’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.
The ranch is comprised of a mix of range land and mosaic wetlands, providing ideal habitat for the Florida panther, bobcats, Eastern indigo snakes, wood storks, little blue herons, bald eagles, sandhill cranes and gopher tortoises. In addition, these conservation easements provide linkage to the conservation and wildlife habitat corridor established by Pasco County and the South West Florida Water Management District, connecting several thousand acres of protected lands and Tampa Bay regional well fields.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in 2001 and has acquired 22 perpetual easements.
The goals of the program include:
• Protecting valuable agricultural lands;
• Creating conservation easements that ensure sustainable agricultural practices;
• Preventing conversion to non-agricultural land uses in the rural base of Florida; and
• Helping to protect natural resources in conjunction with these agricultural operations.
Florida agriculture has an overall economic impact estimated at more than $123 billion annually, making it the state’s second largest industry. The agriculture industry supports more than 2 million jobs in Florida.
More information on the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program is available here.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.