BIR mapAngeline Meeks

Archbold Announces Approval of Conservation Easement within Buck Island Ranch

August 23, 2022

Buck Island Ranch lies in the Headwaters of the Everglades, just 15 miles northwest of Lake Okeechobee. The proposed easement will protect valuable grassland habitat and provide connectivity for wildlife, contributing to the Florida Wildlife Corridor by linking conserved land.

Funding comes from the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and from a grant awarded to FDACS from the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service under the USDA Grasslands of Special Significance easement program. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) will monitor the easement.

The 1,883 acres lie in two parcels on the western and eastern boundaries of Buck Island Ranch. Dr. Betsey Boughton, Archbold's Director of Agroecology Research at the Ranch, describes these grasslands as "a stunning mosaic of species, rich prairies, and wetlands that [exemplify] the imperiled grassland region of south-central Florida." (You can view some of the ranch habitats in Archbold's short film Cowboys and Scientists.)

Buck Island Ranch is a 10,500-acre working cattle ranch, home to 2,800 head of cattle. It serves as the living laboratory for Archbold's Agroecology Research Program and as a site for the USDA Long-term Agroecosystem Research LTAR network. The easement is designed to protect the open grasslands and its threatened species, while allowing for continued grazing and ranch operations.

"We appreciate the public support under the state's RFLPP program and the USDA for the conservation value of Buck Island Ranch," said Dr. Hillary Swain, Archbold's executive director. "Our goal is to protect and enhance Florida's grasslands. This easement will contribute towards Archbold's ability to sustain Buck Island both as a protected working landscape and as a vital research center serving Florida agriculture and environment."

Added Gene Lollis, ranch manager at Buck Island and a former president of the Florida Cattlemen's Association: "Cattle have been part of the Florida landscape for 501 years and cattle ranching has played an integral role in Florida's history. My hope is that this purchase, and many more easements like this, can be concluded soon to preserve this history. I pray that these lands, waters, and wildlife will exist forever for the generations to come."

Lela Love, chair of Archbold's Board added, "This easement is a win for Archbold, for Florida, and for all who care about the beauty of our lands and their wild inhabitants."

Archbold Biological Station's mission is "to build and share the scientific knowledge needed to protect the life, lands, and waters of the heart of Florida." It is located 8 miles south of Lake Placid at 123 Main Drive, Venus, FL 33960.