TALLAHASSEE — Conservation Florida and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association are proud to announce a partnership aimed to shine light on the crucial role ranchers play in Florida conservation efforts.
Florida’s working lands are a critical piece of the greater conservation puzzle and the Florida Wildlife Corridor vision — a protected mosaic of green land stretching from the Florida panhandle to the Keys. Within the corridor, nearly ten million acres are already protected, but there are opportunities for conservation on eight million more acres.
Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson says he supports innovative partnerships like this to protect Florida working lands.
“We’re going to have to be creative about sustaining our momentum,” said Commissioner Simpson. “I believe the way to do it is allowing farmers, the first environmentalists, to take care of that land ... the Cattlemen and Conservation Florida are putting a coalition together ... to do more of that.”
The Florida Wildlife Corridor still exists today because of Florida’s working lands. Roughly 3.2 million acres of ranch lands make up about 18% of the existing corridor — and less than 20% of those lands are protected.
Florida’s cattle ranchers have served as stewards of millions of acres of Florida land, not only preserving rich ranching history, but contributing to the health and continued existence of Florida’s ecosystems. Dating back to the early 16th century when Spanish explorers introduced cattle to the region, cattle ranching is a part of Florida’s identity.
“Florida’s cattle ranchers have a deep connection to the land,” said Pat Durden, president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. “Partnering with Conservation Florida, and others, underscores our commitment to the environment and our willingness to work with like-minded groups and individuals that understand the importance of working lands. We want the Floridians of today and tomorrow to understand Cows Keep Florida Green.”
The partnership will include a campaign that harnesses social media, public outreach, educational programs and joint advocacy — all aimed to reinforce the interconnectedness of ranching and conservation.
“Conservation Florida knows firsthand the power of partnerships, and linking arms with the Florida Cattlemen’s Association allows us to combine conservation expertise with their deep knowledge of agriculture and ties to land ensuring thoughtful, meaningful land conservation across the state,” said Traci Deen, CEO of Conservation Florida.
“As a lifelong rancher, I always tell people that I was born a conservationist,” said Matt Pearce, rancher and Conservation Florida Board of Directors chair. “Ranchers understand the part we play in protecting wild Florida, but it’s integral that we share this message far and wide so that our state’s natural ecosystems and food security will never be in peril.”