Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet agreed Wednesday to spend $660,060 to conserve 772 acres of ranchland in Madison County that four centuries ago included a Spanish mission.
The Cabinet vote came without comment. The deal, which involves purchasing a “conservation easement,” would allow the Koblegard family to continue operating a cow and calf ranch on land it has owned for more than 80 years. The property is considered historically significant because it was once the site of San Pedro y San Pablo de Protohiriba on Lake Sampala, one of five missions established by the Spanish in the 1600s. Now, the property sits between two Florida Forever projects — Hixtown Swamp and San Pedro Bay — and includes Sampala Lake, a 115-acre spring fed lake. The lake is also a headwater of the Econfina River. Money for the deal comes from the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. Conservation easements restrict future development while allowing existing landowners to continue using the property for such things as agriculture. The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, a favorite of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has been used 41 times to secure 42,276 acres across the state.