Last month, Sarasota County acquired 25 acres of environmentally sensitive land on the Myakka River.
The 25 acres are located near South River Road and South Tamiami Trail and are adjacent to the Myakka State Forest. The land was purchased through the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP).
Approved by voters in 1999, the taxpayer-funded program directs the county to identify and acquire natural lands and parklands for conservation.
The news is significant for residents.
According to the 2022 annual Sarasota County Citizen Opinion Survey, population growth and new development is the most important issue for county residents, but eco-tourism continues to be identified as the best way to grow the economy. Residents reporting this as the most important issue increased from 23 percent in 2021 to more than 31 percent in 2022.
The recently protected 25 acres consist of tidal salt marsh, tidal strand, mangrove swamp, mesic, hydric flatwoods and hydric hammock habitats. Some wildlife species that call the property home include West Indian manatees, river otters, gopher tortoises, American alligators, and several wading bird species such as the green heron, little blue heron and reddish egret. Plant species there include the giant air plant, the cardinal air plant, shoestring and resurrection ferns, elephant's foot, Savanna blazing star, black needle rush, and red, black and white mangrove. This property is also located within one mile of State Designated Critical Wildlife Area 17-12, established to protect nesting birds such as anhinga, heron species and wood stork.
Since its creation was approved by Sarasota County voters, the ESLPP has preserved 82 properties containing more than 37,000 acres of land throughout Sarasota, like the 228 acres in Old Miakka purchased in 2021.
Sarasota County also acquires land through other means, including grants—like those used to purchase 69 acres to add to Myakka's Headwaters Preserve last year—donations, partnerships and conservation easements. Citizens who wish to nominate land to be considered for county acquisition may complete a land nomination form here.