Governor DeSantis, Florida Cabinet approve land protection deals

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Cabinet agreed Tuesday to spend $21.74 million on a pair of Florida Forever land deals that will protect more than 5,700 acres in Sarasota County and 17 acres in Columbia County.

Backed by the Sierra Club Florida and the Florida Conservation Voters, the deals are expected to aid local water quality, support wildlife habitat and improve access to recreation. Lindsay Cross of the Florida Conservation Voters said the purchase of the Orange Hammock ranch land in Sarasota County is the “type of bold and effective project” envisioned for Florida Forever and another conservation program, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

“This is not only going to protect water supply, but it includes a globally imperiled habitat, the dry prairie, and it's going to provide new, unique recreation opportunities to the residents of this area,” Cross said. The Orange Hammock Land, on the north side of Interstate 75 in North Port, accounted for $21 million of the money approved Tuesday.

The state’s cost could be offset by $1.5 million from the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast. The land is part of a 40,873-acre Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever project, of which 15,288 acres have been acquired or are under agreement to be acquired.

The 17 acres in southern Columbia County, with a purchase price of $740,000, are along the north bank of the Santa Fe River. The land is where the first magnitude natural spring Columbia Spring emerges and flows into the river.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.