Thanks to the generosity of conservationist Elizabeth Moore and her allies, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), the 1,143-acre Carlton Triangle Ranch has been turned into a conservation easement and wildlife refuge.
“After six generations of ownership, the Carlton family decided a few years ago to sell their ranch. Though tempted by developers, they chose to work with Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast to find a buyer who would agree to a conservation easement,” Moore said. “I had been considering one more real estate purchase, and once I saw the ranch and envisioned the possibilities, I knew I had to be the buyer, especially when I learned about the Forever Florida fund.”
It took a combined $5.55 million to buy the ranch: $3 million from Moore, $2 million from the SWFWMD allocation from the Forever Florida Fund, and $550,000 from Conservation Foundation. Moore, now the owner of the tract, said the transition from cattle ranch to wildlife refuge would come in stages.
“Back in the 1930’s, in order to use that land for agricultural purposes, the Department of Agriculture allowed berms to be built to keep the flood water back and create pasture for cattle. With far fewer cattle, soon we will put in culverts to let the water flow again.”
Bringing back the water is essential to protecting the Myakka wetlands, the Myakka River’s water quality, as well as the biodiversity and flood protection to the entire region.
“Let the water flow and slowly percolate through the ground. Pure and clean water for all,” Moore said. “It will promote wetlands, which are habitat to many bird species, as well as encourage forest growth for the Florida panther, foxes, deer, skunks, raccoons, river otters, etc. Often humans forget that we must share this world with other creatures.”
Moore added that she will invite fellow birders, star gazers and naturalists to visit the ranch. “There is a lot to experience out there. There is even an old cracker house, probably built in the 1920s where Mr. Carlton was born!” she ventured enthusiastically. Eventually, she plans to build a few small cottages using pecky cypress, which recall an Old Florida- style, but will employ modern systems such as solar power. “Maybe I will go into the eco-tourism business!” she humorously offered.
Originally from Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, Moore and her family moved to Bradenton nine years ago, for what she called “a lifestyle change.”
“We enrolled the kids in IMG tennis and Saint Stephens Episcopal School, which proved to be both a warm, welcoming, nurturing environment that also provided a rigorous academic curriculum for our kids.” Because of that experience, the Moore family decided to invest in the success of the school. Their family’s significant financial support helped build the impressive Moore Athletic Complex and its brand new Marine Science Center.
Moore said she has always had a passion for conservation, beginning with memberships and support for Trustees of Reservations and Essex County Greenbelt in Massachusetts. Some years ago the family purchased House Island, which was threatened by development, and then turned it over to the Audubon Society.
Alarmed by the rapid development east of I-75 over the last nine years, Moore went with her friend and fellow Saint Stephens board member and conservationist Mickey Davis to see Triangle Ranch. “Seeing this large tract of pristine land with all the birds and dense forests, I knew I could not stand back and let it cave in to another townhouse development and urban sprawl.” Moore added that the land purchase with the desirable conservation easement would be her small effort to get ahead of the development she sees coming to a state whose population is just over 20 million.
“You have to think about the future, and I am grateful to the Carltons for allowing me to be the next steward of this beautiful land for the benefit of nature and wildlife,” she said.
“We have to act now and have common sense, vision-based planning in our communities. Florida’s population is predicted to rise to over 30 million people over the next 50 years, maybe sooner. Triangle Ranch is part of the Tatum Sawgrass Marsh on the Myakka River – a huge watershed, which filters rainwater and cleans it as it slowly sinks into the soil and down river to the Charlotte Harbor. We need this land to be protected.”
If you would like to learn more about helping to conserve land, contact Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast at 941.918.2100 (conservationfoundation.com)