Five days before a looming deadline, the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has announced that it has secured the $1.5 million it needs to complete a deal to permanently preserve 5,777 acres of virtually untouched land in North Port.
Conserving Orange Hammock Ranch has been a goal of policymakers, environmentalists and philanthropists for decades. Earlier this year, the state of Florida agreed to pay $19.5 million to purchase the land from the current owners, assuming the Conservation Foundation could raise another $1.5 million by the end of May. That campaign was complicated by the emergence of the novel coronavirus and a spike in emergency needs in the area.
The property includes more than 200 wetlands, connects existing natural preserves and is home to quails, indigo snakes and Florida black bears. Rainfall that collects there provides drinking water for North Port.
“We are thrilled at the outpouring of generosity from foundations and donors with gifts of all sizes,” Conservation Foundation president Christine Johnson said in a release. “Saving land as significant as Orange Hammock Ranch is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This success means protection for our drinking water, habitat for wildlife and public open space for all to explore and enjoy.”