Conservation Foundation on Fast Track to Save Orange Hammock Ranch

The Giving Coast

Photo courtesy of SRQ360 Photography

Paying homage to the lush, forested greenery and clear, blue waters of Florida’s gulf coast, the annual 2020 Palm Ball - Forever Green, Forever Blue was celebrated this past Saturday, benefitting the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. This year’s gala marked 13 years of bringing together 300 conservation-minded guests to support the nonprofit’s eco-mission to save the surrounding natural land and engaging locals on the hot topic of environmental conservation. The proceeds from the elegant evening on the shores of Little Sarasota Bay go towards supporting the Foundation’s vital land protection initiatives—much like the recent campaign launch for Orange Hammock Ranch.  

Quickly following the success of Palm Ball, the nonprofit announced this week its campaign to raise $1.5 million by June 1, 2020, in order to permanently protect the 5,777-acre Orange Hammock Ranch. Conserving this particular rural area has been a major priority for the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast for more than a decade. In 2013, the Foundation was successful in getting this property added to the Florida Forever list and has worked to build public and political support since then. The Florida Cabinet voted yesterday to purchase Orange Hammock Ranch, contingent on Conservation Foundation’s pledge. Florida Forever funds will contribute $19.5 million toward the purchase.

Orange Hammock Ranch is located on the north side of Interstate 75—within the City of North Port—connecting RV Griffin Preserve with the Longino Preserve through about six miles of shared boundaries. The ranch increases the 120,000-acre buffer surrounding the Myakka River and strengthens the connection between the Myakka and Peace Rivers. According to the Foundation, immense volumes of rainfall collect within it and feed the Snover Waterway and RV Griffin reservoirs—both of which are critical sources of North Port’s clean drinking water.

The near-pristine property of vast greenscape and wetlands also inhabits natural areas considered in better condition than many public lands. Given its location, and exceptional natural condition, the Foundation says the conservation of Orange Hammock Ranch will have sweeping benefits for regional connectivity, water quality, public recreation and wildlife habitat. The land is currently home to quail, indigo snake, the Florida black bear and even the elusive Florida panther has been spotted in this expansive hidden gem. 

“We are grateful for the many people and organizations that elevated this project, keeping it in the spotlight. We are so close to making this extraordinary conservation project a success, and we now ask the community to help put it over the goal line,” states Christine Johnson, president. “I am proud of our board and staff’s tenacity for this project, which has the trifecta of benefits - drinking water, rare habitat, and unique public access.” 

Photo courtesy of SRQ360 Photography

Help fulfill Conservation Foundation's pledge of $1.5 million for the permanent protection of Orange Hammock Ranch.

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