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Okeechobee ranch next to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve secures $7.75M conservation easement

Abington Preserve secured a $7.75 million conservation easement from Florida Forever for the 3,656-acre ranch in Okechobee County.

A family of cattle ranchers who bought the 3,656-acre Abington Ranch last year just secured a $7.75 million conservation easement through the Florida Forever Project.

The sprawling ranch property in north Okeechobee County is surrounded on three sides by conservation lands. It abuts the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park on the west and south, and to the north lies the Tiger Cattle Company’s Wolf Hammock Ranch, which received a conservation easement in 2016. The 27,000-acre DeLuca Preserve is just over the county line in Osceola County.

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“It’s a great piece of ranch and recreational property with tons of wildlife,” said Dean Saunders, Founder and Managing Director of Lakeland-based SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler. “It’s still a productive ranch.”

Saunders brokered the sale in 2021 to the Grigsby family, who paid $10.9 million for the ranch, which manages up to 500 head of cattle, and five-bedroom hunting lodge with a pool, fishing dock and boat lift. The Grigsbys had operated the Rocking G Ranch in Lake Placid, Florida. The property also includes horse barns and fenced pastures, an income-producing water project, a grass airstrip and a small airboat camp.

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Saunders had represented the sellers, a London-based family investment group, who opted to divest of their real estate portfolio following the death of the family patriarch. “It was the last asset of his they had to dispose of, so they were anxious to get it sold,” he said.

Saunders then assisted the new owners in permanently preserving the land by means of conservation easements through the Florida Forever Project.

The sale included this nearly 9,000-square-foot hunting and fishing lodge, which has five bedrooms, a pool and stocked pond with fishing dock and boat lift.

The Florida Forever Project is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program; a blueprint for conserving Florida’s natural and cultural heritage. Since the inception of the Florida Forever program in July 2001, the state has purchased more than 897,785 acres of land with approximately $3.3 billion, according to the Florida Office of Environmental Services.

During his time as a Florida Legislator two decades ago, Saunders created the conservation easement program to encourage Florida landowners to conserve sensitive land. A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement with a government agency or nonprofit land trust that rewards landowners who choose to limit development on their land. These easements are custom created to meet the personal and financial needs of the landowner while retaining private ownership. The goal is to preserve and protect ecological, historic or scenic resources.

“It’s my passion,” he told GrowthSpotter.

Abington Preserve accommodates 500 head of cattle and has potential to increase herd production.

The Florida Cabinet approved the Abington Preserve deal in August as one of seven easements or acquisitions totaling over 19,800 acres that were funded through the Florida Forever Program and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

“This transaction highlights how vital it is to have public funding available for conservation deals,” Saunders said. “As rural land is increasingly developed to accommodate Florida’s growing population, Florida needs to secure a steady source of funding for conservation deals to ensure a healthy balance between development and conservation for years to come. Compensating landowners for choosing to conserve land is the best strategy to reach that balance.”

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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