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Deal Protects Highlands County Land from Development

Dan Environment, Florida, Industry News Release

Nearly 2,500 acres of ranch land in Highlands County will be added to a state program that helps limit development of agricultural property.

highlandsGov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet agreed Tuesday to spend $5.5 million to purchase a “conservation easement” on what is known as the Sandy Gully property, which contains wetlands and surface waters that flow toward the Peace River.

Money for the deal comes from the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which is used to purchase easements that allow property owners to continue using land for such things as agricultural operations while preventing development. The program, favored by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has been used 38 times in the past eight years, accounting for more than 47,000 acres across the state being put into conservation easements.

The state anticipates that the federal government will eventually cover $3.3 million of the cost of the Sandy Gully deal through an Agricultural Conservation Easement Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The family-owned Sandy Gully land, originally a dairy operation, transitioned to a cattle operation in 2002.

Source: News Service of Florida