Conservation Foundation Announces New $100,000 Pledge in the Race to Save Orange Hammock Ranch

The Giving Coast

SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY MAY 23, 2020

Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast announces a new $100,000 challenge pledge from an anonymous donor toward the permanent protection of Orange Hammock Ranch. The Foundation now needs only $100,000 by June 1st to complete their $1.5 million commitment to conserve the 5,777-acre ranch forever. Conservation Foundation had $200,000 left to raise towards a $300,000 challenge from a group of donors.

“Now this pledge of $100,000 is a new challenge halving the amount needed to save Orange Hammock Ranch. This is an historic moment and the community is responding,” notes Christine Johnson, president of Conservation Foundation. “Saving Orange Hammock Ranch means protecting our drinking water quality and supply. It means rare and endangered habitat, plants, and animals, have hope. During this pandemic, we’ve seen people flocking to our public open spaces underlining the human value of places to enjoy nature. Orange Hammock Ranch will be open to the public, all 5,777 acres!”

When the $1.5 million is raised, it will bring $19.5 million in Florida Forever dollars to this region, and free up $9 million for other land conservation projects that Sarasota County had reserved for Orange Hammock Ranch. This means the community’s contribution will be leveraged 19 times for land conservation.
In February, the Florida State Cabinet voted to purchase Orange Hammock Ranch contingent upon Conservation Foundation’s pledge to raise $1.5 million. Florida Forever funds will contribute $19.5 million toward the $21 million purchase.

The ranch is located north of Interstate 75 within the City of North Port. It connects RV Griffin Preserve with the Longino Preserve through about six miles of shared boundaries, and increases the 120,000-acre buffer surrounding the Myakka River and strengthens the connection between the Myakka and Peace Rivers. Immense volumes of rainfall collect on the property and feed the Snover Waterway and RV Griffin reservoirs, both of which are critical sources of North Port’s clean drinking water.

The property is also nearly pristine, with natural areas in better condition than many public lands. Over 200 wetlands are intermixed with pine flatwood, globally-imperiled dry prairie and other native habitat. Given this location and exceptional natural condition, the conservation of Orange Hammock Ranch will have sweeping benefits for regional connectivity, water quality, public recreation, and wildlife habitat. This vast land is home to quail, indigo snake and the Florida black bear. Importantly, the property is connected with 120,000 acres of protected land, making it viable habitat for Florida panther, which are now breeding in nearby Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area.

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