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Deal would preserve ranch near Myakka River

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A 1,088-acre property in Manatee County that touches nearly three miles of the Myakka River is one step closer to being placed into permanent conservation after Southwest Florida Water Management District officials earmarked $2 million Tuesday for an easement on the land. The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has been negotiating for months to preserve the Triangle Ranch, which sits just north of the Sarasota County line and borders Myakka River State Park.

More than 100 species of birds have been spotted on the ranch. Protecting and restoring the property's marsh habitat also will benefit water quality and help with flood management efforts downriver.

Triangle Ranch's owners – a family that has held the land for a century – want to sell the property outright, but many state leaders are wary of purchasing more public land.

Knowing the political climate, the foundation opted to seek funding for a conservation easement that protects the property from development but keeps it in private hands. A private conservation buyer – Bradenton philanthropist Elizabeth Moore – is negotiating to purchase Triangle Ranch and has agreed to the perpetual easement.

“We've had to find very creative ways to save land,” said foundation president Christine Johnson.

The complex transaction has yet to be finalized, but Johnson is optimistic the deal will go through now that the easement has received preliminary approval.

The purchase price for the 1,088 acres is $4.8 million. Moore also is purchasing another 55 adjacent acres that will not have a conservation easement but will be deed restricted to limit development, Johnson said.