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Securing Private Working Forests

U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities leads this project conserving working lands and wildlife habitat near military installations. In Florida, a 1,576-acre conservation easement has been acquired near Avon Park Airforce Range. The project will protect longleaf pine forests in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana and maintain lands surrounding up to 10 military installations. Protection of landscapes that buffer military installations advance the collective conservation efforts of the Sentinel Landscape Partnership

The conservation easement in Florida is on Rafter T Ranch, a working cattle ranch along the eastern edge of the Lake Wales Ridge in Sebring. Lake Wales Ridge has one of the highest concentrations of imperiled plant and animal species in the United States. Under provisions of the easement, ranching operations will continue, but development of the property is prohibited in perpetuity. And just recently, The Nature Conservancy expanded that protection by putting 1,686 acres of working land on Rafter T Ranch into an easement through the “Everglades Headwaters Longleaf Pine” RCPP project, protecting a total of 3,262 acres.  

The Rafter T Ranch is part of the Everglades watershed and is critical to supply water to the Everglades and the aquifer. The ranch connects to large tracts of protected lands that provide a natural lands corridor in Highlands County. The area is home to iconic wildlife such as the Florida panther, Florida black bear, swallow-tailed kite, and Southern fox squirrel. Project spans from 2015 and is ongoing.

Securing Private Working Forests
Partners

The Nature Conservancy
Department of Defense 
Highlands County
Enterprise Florida
Central Florida Regional Planning Council