OKEECHOBEE — Conservation Florida, a dynamic leader in statewide land conservation, in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Defense, has permanently conserved the 2,526-acre Role Tran property (previously known as Triple Diamond Ranch) in Okeechobee County. This protection project further links the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Partial funding was allocated from the state’s Florida Forever program. Funding for this project was approved in January 2023 by Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet in its role as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund.
“The conservation of land to create a conserved wildlife corridor spanning our state is not only necessary for wildlife such as the Florida panther, black bear, and gopher tortoise, but also for protecting our water, economy, and way of life,” said Traci Deen, CEO of Conservation Florida. “We’re grateful for our partners at FDEP and DOD, as well as the Lightsey family, for conserving a piece of the corridor puzzle that furthers so many important conservation priorities for Florida.”
This program serves to support military missions by creating cost-sharing agreements between the military forces and other involved federal agencies, state and local governments, and private conservation organizations. These agreements help prevent land-use conflicts near military installations, address environmental restrictions that limit military activities, and increase resilience to climate change.
“In Florida, we are looking for every opportunity to conserve the wide-open spaces of our state, connect linkages to our forested and natural areas, and overall provide green infrastructure that benefits the natural elements that make Florida so special,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “It’s important to have public and private partners in this shared vision, and for that we’re thankful for Conservation Florida’s commitment to growing the Florida Wildlife Corridor.”
Role Tran is bordered to the north by the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and to the east by the Everglades Headwaters Wildlife Management Area. The property is situated within the Kissimmee River Basin and the headwaters of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Through the permanent protection of Role Tran, a significant dry prairie has also been conserved, which is critical in the long-term protection of the native natural community and the accompanying species that use it as habitat. The protection of this intact landscape allows for the management of thousands of acres that serve as habitats for rare vertebrate wildlife such as gopher tortoises, considered a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Native flora documented on the property areas include saw palmetto and wax myrtle.
Additionally, a beautiful upland hardwood forest is now permanently protected. Upland forests are known for their dense tree canopies and deciduous tree species, and they provide a cooler atmosphere under their branches for many plants and wildlife. Another type of forest, a mesic hammock characterized by evergreen trees, cabbage palms, and saw palmettos, is also present on the property, along with a shrub bog and a depression marsh. Bogs and marshes play an important role in conservation by providing large swaths of inaccessible natural habitat for plants and animals to flourish. Accompanying these natural environments is a wet prairie, a herbaceous landscape defined by moist earth and gentle slopes, and dotted with Clastic Upland Lakes.
These strong and diverse ecological environments present on Role Tran clearly show how important the preservation of this property is to the wider Florida landscape.
A working cattle ranch with about 70 head of cattle, Role Tran is yet another example of how different types of properties, especially agricultural properties, are necessary to conserve to protect a connected, functional Florida Wildlife Corridor.
“Our family is proud to contribute to the conservation of Florida’s wild and working agricultural lands and the Florida Wildlife Corridor,” said Lee Lightsey, partner and owner of Role Tran. “It was a pleasure working with Conservation Florida to see our land protected. We’re grateful to the Florida DEP for acquiring an easement on our land that both protects natural values while also allowing our family to continue to promote outdoor recreation and agriculture.”
About Conservation Florida: Conservation Florida is a statewide accredited land conservancy working to conserve Florida’s water, wildlife, wild places, and protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor. The organization’s conservation projects support Florida’s native plants and wildlife, fresh water, wildlife corridors, family farms and ranches, the economy, and nature-based recreation. Since its founding in 1999, Conservation Florida has prioritized strategic and evidence-based land protection and has saved over 32,000 acres of critical habitat.
About Florida Department of Environmental Protection: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water, and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.