NORTH PORT, Fla. — Some state leaders are looking at purchasing and conserving nearly 6,000 acres along the north side of I-75 in North Port.
The area is known as Orange Hammock Ranch. It was identified as a critical natural protection area back in the late 1990s, but members of the conservation foundation of the gulf coast want to see the land purchased before it's sold to a landowner who doesn't have the same vision.
The ranch is 60 to 75 percent wetland, and water runoff feeds nearby waterways that are a critical source of North Port's drinking water. This area could be a place to hike and bird watch -- in addition to saving the prairie.
“Some in-peril species live on the property and can be brought back to the property. For instance, quail. Most importantly, most people around here know about the Florida scrub jay – the only indigenous bird that’s native to Florida. It also lives on this piece of property. There are wild turkeys, of course there’s deer. I’m sure the panther has come across the property as well,” Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast President Christine Johnson told 10News.
Members of the Florida cabinet will vote in Tallahassee on Tuesday whether to put up $19 million for the purchase. The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast pledged an additional $1.5 million. If the deal goes through, it would be finalized this summer.
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