Babcock Ranch

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Preserving an Environmental Legacy



A historic land acquisition in Southwest Florida will protect a vast expanse of wildlife habitat, a historic working ranch, a valuable water-recharge area and outdoor recreational opportunities for the public.

On June 19, 2006, in a bright-green pasture bordered by pine flatwoods, Governor Jeb Bush signed the Babcock Preservation Act, taking Florida one step closer to completing one of the largest conservation land purchases in state history. The new law provides $310 million of state money to acquire nearly 74,000 acres of the Babcock Ranch property, which spans both Lee and Charlotte counties in Southwest Florida.

Home to the Florida panther, Florida black bear and the crested caracara, Babcock Ranch is 91,000 acres of ranch lands, cypress domes, flatwoods, scrub and wetlands. The land is sandwiched between two fast-growing areas, Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte to the north and Fort Myers to the south.

Part of the state’s Florida Forever land conservation program, the acquisition will provide a connection with other conservation lands, with the goal of preserving a 65-mile natural land corridor from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico—the single-largest tract of contiguous conservation lands in the state’s history.

The purchase of the Babcock property complements the Florida Forever program because funding came from outside the program, saving funds to purchase other environmentally sensitive and valuable properties.

History of the Ranch

Hunting lured Edward Vose Babcock, a Pittsburgh lumber magnate to Southwest Florida. In 1914, he bought a tract of land, where he established the Crescent B Ranch as a logging and farming business.

In the 1930s, his son, Fred C. Babcock, assumed responsibility for the ranch and is credited with establishing environmental stewardship of the property. An advocate for preserving natural spaces, he replanted the ranch’s logged-over forests, removed invasive non-native plants and donated thousands of acres to the state for preservation.

After Fred died in 1997 at age 83, the Babcock Florida Company continued operating the cattle ranch; however, the Babcock family was interested in selling the property.

The Art of the Deal

Many would-be purchasers courted the family with significant offers, eager to buy the land and divide it into ranchettes, selling it off piece by piece. This was not the Babcock family’s vision for the property they had so carefully managed for more than 90 years.

In July 2005, Kitson and Partners, LLC—a West Palm Beach-based development company—reached an agreement with the Babcock Florida Company to purchase the ranch and began working with the state to preserve more than 90 percent of the land. At a total cost of $350 million, the state is purchasing most of the historic ranch for preservation, with Lee County contributing more than $40 million to the acquisition.

Kitson & Partners and its new management company, Babcock Ranch Management, LLC, will manage the ranch for 10 years. On the land not included in the state purchase, Kitson will build a mixed-use community that will provide a wide range of housing options, as well as commercial spaces. The existing business operations—cattle ranching, sod farming, ecotours, rock mining and timber cultivation—will continue.

An Environmental Legacy for Everyone

Babcock Ranch will be available to the public for hiking, bicycling, camping, horseback riding and other recreational activities, including hunting. But there’s no need to wait—visitors can enjoy the Babcock Ranch today. Since 1991, Babcock Wilderness Adventures has been offering ecotours of the ranch and its natural areas to nearly 30,000 people every year. During a 90-minute tour, a guide explains about ranch activities, wildlife and the natural environment. A museum featuring Florida history, Babcock operations, and natural history artifacts and exhibits is housed in a movie set used by Warner Brothers to film the Sean Connery movie Just Cause. Visitors can bring a picnic lunch or enjoy a lunch at the seasonal Gator Shack Restaurant. Reservations are required. Call (800) 500-5583 or visit BabcockWilderness.com for more information.

—Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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