Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Properties Worth Protecting

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Properties Worth Protecting

Article excerpt

State council takes the first step toward preserving vital lands

Florida's Acquisition and Restoration Council made three good calls last week by placing a trio of environmentally precious tracts on a list for possible state-supported preservation.

Let's hope this important, but early, step will eventually result in perpetual conservation of the properties.

Two of the tracts -- the Triangle Ranch in Manatee County and the Sheps Island Ranch in Sarasota County -- adjoin the Myakka River State Park.

As Zac Anderson reported in the Herald-Tribune, the Triangle has three miles of frontage along the Myakka River and Sheps Island Ranch is visible from the main visitor area along the park's western boundary. The Orange Hammock Ranch is farther south and buffers the so-called Myakka Island, including the state park -- a total of 110,000 acres that have been preserved and protected under various forms of public and private ownership.

The three ranches cover a combined 7,564 acres and are conservatively priced at $14.2 million. Their environmental value, which benefits from connectivity to the other lands and, in the case of Orange Hammock, the protection of regional water resources -- borders on priceless. Fortunately, the owners of each property are willing to relinquish development rights and preserve the lands in exchange for public investments.

Unfortunate opposition

The Acquisition and Restoration Council is responsible for vetting applications for public purchase -- in some form -- and preservation. Once properties are placed on the appropriate list, the state's Florida Forever program assesses their values and negotiates with the owners over price and uses.

Manatee County government supports the Triangle Ranch acquisition and Sarasota County endorses the same for Sheps Island.

Unfortunately, last week the Sarasota County Commission allowed opposition from a divided North Port City Commission -- which, on a 3-2 vote decided not to support state acquisition -- to prevent the county from endorsing the acquisition of Orange Hammock Ranch. …

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