Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will be asked next week to spend $5.5 million to help limit future development on nearly 2,500 acres of ranch land in Highlands County.
The proposal, which will go to the Cabinet on Aug. 14, seeks to add the Sandy Gully property to the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which through the use of “conservation easements” restricts future development but allows owners to continue using land for such things as agricultural operations.
The program, favored by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has been used 38 times in the past eight years, accounting for more than 47,000 acres across the state being put into conservation easements.
The family-owned Sandy Gully land, originally a dairy operation, transitioned to a cattle operation in 2002. The purchase could help protect wetlands and surface waters that flow toward the Peace River.
The state anticipates that the federal government will eventually cover $3.3 million of the cost through an Agricultural Conservation Easement Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service.