Pelaez & Sons Ranch offers refuge for wildlife

Ralph Pelaez with his grandson McKinley on their 1,375-acre ranch in Okeechobee County. Photo by Randy Batista

My family has always been committed to ranching and the conservation of this land. I am very grateful to the Conservation Trust for Florida and the Rural and Family Lands Program for helping me establish this legacy for my children and grandchildren.

~ Ralph Pelaez

The Conservation Trust for Florida worked with the Pelaez family to place a conservation easement on their 1,375- acre cattle ranch. The easement allows the family keep their land in agricultural production and protects important habitat near the Everglades Headwaters. This project was funded by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and supported by the Florida Forest Service.

Located east of the Kissimmee River and eight miles north of Lake Okeechobee, the property is in a key location for watershed protection. It is adjacent to a federal wetlands reserve program easement and is near South Florida Water Management District conservation lands.

The property contains suitable habitat for many species such as the Eastern indigo snake, crested caracara, sandhill crane, gopher tortoise, Sherman’s fox squirrel, bald eagle, Southeastern American kestrel, burrowing owl, wood stork, and Florida grasshopper sparrow.

The Pelaez & Sons project exemplifies the relationship between sustainable agriculture and conservation. Funding from Florida’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program has allowed this family to continue ranching while protecting important water resources and wildlife habitat.

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