2,172-acre Sampala Lake landscape now protected

Gainesville, Fla., Feb. 6, 2019 —Conservation Florida (CFL), a leader in statewide land conservation, announced the successful completion of its Sampala Lake land protection project in Madison County, Florida.  

Photo by Randy Batista

Photo by Randy Batista

Together, the two ranchlands that make up the project not only protect Sampala Lake, they also provide aquifer recharge benefits, support agriculture, and extend wildlife corridors. Other public benefits include habitat for wildlife, purification of surface water and the protection of a significant archeological site. 

Sampala Lake is a 115-acre, spring-fed lake that partially forms the headwaters of the Econfina River. It is important for flood control and sediment reduction into the river. Sampala Lake is also a refuge for many aquatic species, including large-mouth bass and panfish. Other species that use the lake, and its surrounding land, include Florida black bears, deer, coyotes, turkeys, fox squirrels, wood ducks, and various water fowl. 

The historical aspects of the project add to its conservation value. According to a written statement by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, “ … San Pedro y San Pablo de Protohiriba on Lake Sampala is one of five missions established by Spanish explorers in the 1600’s. The mission is believed to have been constructed between 1609 and 1655 and is situated in the Yustaga province. Yustaga were a Timucua people of, what is now, northwestern Florida during the 16th and 17th centuries. Of the five missions, or doctrines, San Pedro was the largest and considered most important.” 

The entire Sampala Lake project was protected with two conservation easements that prevent future development of the land while allowing it to remain in private ownership. The easements do allow ranching operations on the land to continue contributing to Florida’s economy. 

The Adams Family is pleased to once again be partnering with Conservation Florida to conserve more of our agriculture land, ensuring that future generations will have the opportunity to work the land on this historic cattle ranch in North Florida.
— LeeAnn Simmons

The first portion of this project was completed in 2018 with the purchase of a conservation easement on 772 acres of the Sampala Lake Ranch property owned by the Koblegard family. 

Now, the adjacent 1,400-acre ARCCO property is also protected. Owned by the renowned Adams ranching family, this land has been used for agriculture, ranching, and forestry for over 80 years. It is currently a cattle/calf operation and contains 352 acres of wetlands, including a cypress-tupelo basin swamp, basin marsh, bottomland forest, and hydric hammock. 

LeeAnn Simmons, a spokesperson for the Adams Ranch said, “The Adams Family is pleased to once again be partnering with Conservation Florida to conserve more of our agriculture land, ensuring that future generations will have the opportunity to work the land on this historic cattle ranch in North Florida.”

The easements on both properties were purchased by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) with funding from the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) at a total cost of $1.92 million. The value donated by the landowners totals $328,940. 

Conservation Florida worked with the Adams family throughout the RFLPP process and advocated for state funding for the project.  It is currently working on 27 projects across the state totaling 178,485 acres. 

“Conservation Florida is really proud of this unique land protection project,” said Traci Deen, CFL’s executive director. “Conserving this landscape protects a piece of Florida history, safeguards nature from future development, and protects land that supports Florida’s family ranches. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to help protect this landscape forever.”