The Nature Conservancy and partners have completed the protection of the essential 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 cattle ranching operations to continue uninterrupted.
One of those partners is USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Florida State Conservationist Juan Hernandez said, “These easements keep family farms and ranches intact and prevent development while protecting environmental quality and supporting military readiness.”
The $2.99 million conservation easement purchase is funded by TNC donor funds and through awards from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), through the U.S. Air Force’s implementation of DoD’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program and the USDA-NRCS Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) program.
TNC’s protection of the property preserves the ranch’s role as part of the connected corridor of critical lands that benefit wildlife and supports water flow and storage within the Arbuckle Creek watershed, a critical component of the organization’s mission in Florida. Ravensworth Farms is bordered by other conserved lands and Arbuckle Creek to the east, which separates the property from the 106,000-acre Avon Park Air Force Range. The property is integral to ensuring water quality flowing into the creek and southward toward Lake Istokpoga. It feeds into efforts to protect and buffer the Kissimmee River and other tributaries to Lake Okeechobee, and ultimately the Everglades.
The conservation easement on Ravensworth Farms provides protection for a variety of important habitats. That includes longleaf pine, as well as iconic wildlife such as the Florida Panther, Florida Black Bear, Bald Eagle, Southeastern Fox Squirrel, Gopher Tortoise, Crested Caracara, and Roseate Spoonbill.
Temperince Morgan, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida said, “Securing a conservation easement on Ravensworth Farms is integral to our continued push to preserve lands and water resources critical to the health of Florida’s environment, wildlife, economy and people. Lands and waters that would otherwise be under threat from development and other non-conservation uses.”