Ranchlands of the Kissimmee River Basin/Lake Okeechobee Watershed
This vital and vibrant landscape spans Okeechobee, Osceola, Highlands, Glades, St Lucie, Martin, and Polk counties. It is prized for its large, historic cattle ranches, sweeping vistas, and critical ecosystems. Protection of land surrounding rivers, lakes and streams in the Kissimmee River basin is essential because the basin forms the headwaters of the Greater Everglades. These lands help filter surface water flowing from the north before it reaches Lake Okeechobee. In addition to contributing to the clean drinking water supply for millions of people in South Florida, the land provides shelter for many species of neotropical birds during their spring and fall migrations, and it is estimated that over 50% of all habitat used by panthers in the Northern Everglades is on private lands. Our current work in this region will protect over 20,000 acres of family-run ranches, which will provide significant habitat for Florida panthers and many other species like the grasshopper sparrow.
It is estimated that over 50% of all habitat used by panthers in this region is on private lands, which are sustainably managed to protect biodiversity. However, most of the surrounding counties do not have a local land trust, making it one of the more underserved regions of the state.