Beef Ranchers and Their Role Protecting Florida Land and Endangered Species

Across the southern most areas of Florida on the Gulf side and through the Florida Everglades, many species of wildlife are on the ‘at risk’ or endangered species list.  As residents of Florida, we know that part of what makes our state so beautiful is the diversity of animals, fish and plants.  It’s a paradise that draws millions of American and international tourists annually.

What is the one common factor that is putting the most pressure on our native Florida wildlife? Land encroachment due to development.  Did you know that right now, there are 39 species at the brink of disappearing forever from our state?  There are another 189 plant and animal species that are listed as ‘threatened’, meaning that they are quickly dropping in terms of population numbers in Florida.

With each new resort or residential housing development that gets approved, we lose more of our natural green spaces that we will never get back.  What many residents of Florida may not realize, is how involved cattle ranchers are at every level as they fight to protect natural pasture lands that are crucial to the growth of our grass-fed beef industry.

We would like to share a few facts to help inform everyone about the important role that Florida beef ranchers have historically played (and continue to contribute to) in the fight to protect wildlife and pristine natural green spaces in our state.

Jim Strickland Explains Why Supporting Beef Ranchers Matters

Interviewed in an article for U.S. News, Jim Strickland (a sixth-generation cattle rancher) owns just over 4,500 acres of his family ranch.  In addition to their private ranch, Mr. Strickland estimates that he manages (with his partner) and oversees another 14,000+ acres for investors and other business owners who operate cattle ranchers.  

What Mr. Strickland has seen over the past 60 years, is a rapid decline of pastureland and increasing pressure on cattle ranchers for a variety of reasons.  The growth of imported (and in many cases lower quality beef) puts increase price pressure on ranchers who are sustaining healthier agricultural methods.  Ranchers like Strickland choose to raise grass-fed beef, because they know it is more nutritious and what Americans and exporters trust as quality and healthy beef.

Like other professional ranchers, Jim Strickland has explained how crucial profitability is for ranchers.  In one interview he explained that after hurricane damage, or after a drought or other issue that impacts production for beef ranchers, predatory developers are waiting.  When it comes down to choices, ranching families neither want to sell out, nor do they want to sell-off portions of their land.  But some have no choice given market conditions, or natural environmental losses. 

Learn more about Jim Strickland, of the shining stars of business leadership in cattle ranching and conservation in Florida.

What Are Conservation Easements in Florida?

The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program works actively in partnership with Florida farmers and ranchers, to protect and preserve their agricultural operations, and the broad environmental benefit that they provide.  It is one of many organizations that work with the ACEP every year, to protect agricultural land against development.

In 2019, more than 3,700 acres of land in Osceola County was included in the program that protects it against purchase by real estate or commercial developers.  The parcel includes 528 acres in the Camp Lonesome ranch, and 3,245 acres in the Adams Ranch.  

The Adams Ranch conservation was a huge victory for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, as it was the largest easement in the program’s history, bringing the total acreage of protected land (in the RFLPP) to just over 18,000 acres of agricultural space.  

The now protected property from the Adams Ranch includes a large tract of dry grasslands and marsh, and it is home to some rare species including the gopher frog, the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, the Hooded Pitcher Plant and Burrowing Owls.  

Another amazing group (and one Jim Strickland works with) is The Florida Conservation Group.  This committee of volunteers represents both biologists and members of the agricultural community, as they assist ranchers and land owners to navigate easements, or cost-sharing opportunities that help protect land against development.

The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) is the governing body that works with other programs, independent landowners and land trust non-profits to protect, restore and healthfully manage Florida grasslands and wetlands.  To learn more about the conservation efforts across the state of Florida every year, visit the Natural Resources Conservation Service Florida website.

How Can Your Trip to the Grocery Store Help Florida Ranchers Protect the Environment?

Not only do Florida beef ranchers raise some of the most internationally recognized quality beef, but most of them consider themselves to be stewards of the land they own, or lease as part of their operations.  

Talk to a Florida cattle rancher about how he or she really feels about losing thousands of acres annually to development, and you’ll get a clear picture of how committed they are do something about it.  Not only to protect their livelihood and businesses, but to preserve the Florida they know and love.

Florida Raised is a new brand of ground-beef (watch our website for additional products launching soon) that embraces that commitment and rich heritage.  By choosing Fresh from Florida beef, you as a consumer have the power to effect change, encourage the growth of our statewide agricultural community, and participate in their efforts to protect Florida wildlife and natural environmental areas.