TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has finalized the purchase of an 11,958-acre conservation easement in DeSoto and Hardee counties within the Horse Creek Ranch Florida Forever project.
Previously approved for acquisition by Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet, this property provides a buffer for Horse Creek, a tributary of the Peace River, and will ensure the continued protection of the area’s drinking water supply. Protecting intact native wetlands in the Peace River watershed is crucial to the health of the Charlotte Harbor Estuary and the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition, the Southwest Florida Water Management District is purchasing a conservation easement over Carlton Horse Creek Ranch’s remaining acreage, which will bring the total protected area to more than 16,000 acres and complete this Florida Forever project.
Located within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, this property supports habitat protection for numerous threatened plant and animal species, including the gopher tortoise, Eastern indigo snake, Eastern diamond-back rattlesnake, the Florida burrowing owl, crested caracara and the Florida sandhill crane.
Florida Forever is the state's conservation and recreation land acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving Florida's natural resources and renewing the state's commitment to conserving its natural and cultural heritage.?DEP’s?Division of State Lands?is Florida’s lead entity for conservation land acquisition, environmental management and stewardship.
Since 2019, the state has invested $600 million for land acquisition, including $300 million specifically for the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and acquired over 170,000 acres, which is nearly four times more than that of the previous four years. Approximately 97% of these acres are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.