Wednesday, May 26, 2010

State purchase to help Florida family stay in cattle business

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet on Tuesday approved the purchase of a 782-acre conservation easement in Osceola County that a ranching family said will help it stay in the cattle business.

Adams Ranch covers 33,000 acres and includes some virtually undisturbed areas that provide habitat for numerous threatened wildlife species, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and The Nature Conservancy. Last month, Adams Ranch was named one of the top-10 "at risk" state purchase areas by the Florida Forever Coalition.

Nearly 8,000 acres of Adams Ranch has been targeted by the state for preservation under the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program administered by the department. Under the program, the state purchases permanent legal agreements that can prohibit development and mining and restrict agriculture to activities to protect wildlife habitat. The state previously purchased a 677-acre conservation easement there.

A family member said the $1.6 million payment by the state for the conservation easement will allow the family to continue ranching as it has been for 70 years and four generations. The ranch is nationally recognized for its Braford cattle herd-breeding program, the department said.

"We believe that (state) programs like these will help family ranches such as ours stay together and continue producing food for people," said Lee Ann Adams, a member of the family's youngest generation.

Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson, who has criticized the state's conservation land purchase program this year, said the Adams Ranch project is a model because the landowners will continue paying property taxes while providing jobs, producing food and preserving the state's cattle heritage.

Environmental groups say they such support conservation easements but they add that land purchases also are needed to protect natural areas and provide public access.

(Photo by Carlton Ward Jr. courtesy of the Florida Forever Coalition. Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting

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