Florida Cabinet to Consider $350 Million Land Buy

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A popular ranch in southwest Florida may soon be in the state's hands. It would create a massive natural land corridor from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.

It's a working ranch with ranchers bearing lassos, and plenty of open range.

Cragin Mosteller with the Department of Environmental Protection says, "It's panther habitat, black bear habitat with unique plants and animals on the property."

The Babcock Ranch is what many call "real Florida." It has freshwater swamps, scrubby flatwoods and endangered wildlife, and it's up for sale.

“That's why Babcock is so important. It's selling to Kitson and Partners, and he is a developer looking to sell a large tract of land to the state for conservation."

It's 74,000 acres in all, for $350 million over five years, a rather large acquisition that's delaying other land buys across the state.

Sandy Cook, Wakulla Springs State Park Manager, says, "There's always a concern that a delay in acquisition may not become a public ownership eventually."

But park staff at Wakulla Springs aren't too worried. With no big developments threatening the springs, Cook says a year or so wait isn't that bad.

But when it comes to Florida's natural beauty, some conservationists say every minute counts.

Dale Crider says, "We have such a short window of time to get busy."

The Florida Cabinet is scheduled to consider the Babcock purchase Tuesday. In the last five years Florida Forever has acquired more than one million acres of land for preservation.