NORTH PORT, Fla. — State leaders voted to put up $19 million to help conserve nearly 6,000 acres of land along the north side of I-75 in North Port. 

That means, when the land deal is complete later this summer, you could have a new place to hike and bird watch in Sarasota County. The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has pledged an additional $1.5 million dollars. The nonprofit is kicking off a campaign to raise money to help save the prairie. 

Here’s why, they say, this is critical.

The ranch is 60 to 75 percent wetland and water runoff feeds nearby waterways that are a critical source for North Port's drinking water. It was one of two Florida Forever land acquisitions approved today according to the Governor’s office. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will manage the site. 

RELATED: State leaders consider purchasing nearly 6,000 acres in Sarasota County

“The protection of our environment and vital water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a statement. 

“Today’s land acquisitions give us another opportunity to address these issues in a meaningful way.” 

According to the Governor’s office, The Governor and Cabinet also agreed to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 559 acres within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever project in Manatee County. The land is adjacent to Flatford Swamp which is owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. 

It’s considered an important aquifer recharge area and surface water feature for the headwaters of the Myakka River corridor.

RELATED: New state website focuses on Florida’s water quality

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