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  • Brice Claypoole

Orange Hammock Ranch: A Very Rare Conservation Opportunity

UPDATE: The Conservation Foundation got the money they needed! They can no longer take donations for this project but you can still support their work at

Last Friday my mom came in the door with a newspaper, she wanted to read an article in it to me. It was about a place right here in Sarasota County called Orange Hammock Ranch. It is a 5,777- acre wild property, mostly wetlands near the city of North Port. It is not heavily invaded by invasive plants, undeveloped and unprotected, very rare in Florida. Being as into conservation as I am this sounded really cool.

She kept reading. The state would pay $19.5 million through the Florida Forever Fund to preserve it. “This is from April Fool’s Day, isn’t it?” I asked amazed. My mom didn’t answer. “It’s from April Fool’s Day, right?” I asked again. She continued reading. So, the state would pay all that money but they were $1.5 million short. The Conservation Foundation of the gulf coast would have to raise the rest of the money for the property. They now only need $150,000 in donations but they have to get it before June 1st. “So, is it real?” I asked. My mom said yes it was real. She showed me the Conservation Foundation’s web page on Orange Hammock where you could donate to help save it. My mom and grandmother were already planning to donate. There were more articles on it, too. It had even come on the radio and the Community Foundation and other groups we trusted were supporting it; it was clearly real!

Orange Hammock includes a habitat called dry prairie which is unique to Florida, many animals including the burrowing owl live in this sort of habitat. And 5,777 acres of land that is a rare, and I mean rare conservation opportunity. Just this was enough for me; I rushed into my room and found a ten dollar bill to donate. The next day I did more research on the positive impacts preserving it would have and it turns out that it’s also important because large amounts of rainwater collect on the property and feed the Snover Waterway and Myakkahatchee Creek which are both critical sources for North Port’s drinking water. So, preserving this land wouldn’t just help the environment but also everyone in the area by providing clean water to drink. It’s also a suitable habitat for the endangered Florida panther! I decided since I didn’t have much money to give I would try to spread the word about a very important place. A place that not only provides for wild animals, but also provides us with the clean water we need. A place that needs our help if it is to be around for years to come.

This is an extremely rare chance to ensure a brighter future for ourselves and beautiful wild Florida, but we only have till June 1st-less than two weeks-before we lose this amazing chance. Can you imagine the sun setting over live oak hammocks surrounded by seas of grass and wildflowers, herons walking gracefully along rivers that reflect the orange of the setting sun, an eagle perched in a lone pine tree overlooking a field of wildflowers where burrowing owls are coming out of their burrows and butterflies are dancing among the coreopsis, gaillardia and verbena blooms? The thought of all of that destroyed, paved over with concrete is heart breaking, at least for me.

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