Finding a balance between farming, ranching and conservation is not an impossible task. Just ask the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) about the Longino Ranch in Arcadia, and a success story for conservation emerges.
As a result of effectively managing private lands with wise conservation practices, the Longino Ranch received the Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship award from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies at its annual conference on Sept. 10 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Nominees for this award come from fish and wildlife agencies around the country. The FWC nominated Longino Ranch for its outstanding commitment and stewardship in preserving the environmentally sensitive land while still managing a successful cattle, citrus and timber operation.
“The Longino family has led the way for more than 50 years in balancing the needs of the land with the needs of a business,” said Tim Breault, the FWC’s director of the Division Habitat and Species Conservation. “The FWC encourages other farmers and landowners to look to this ranch as a role model for how to balance through diversification and a willingness to do what is right for wildlife and the environment.”
Berryman T. “Buster” Longino began running the 8,000-acre ranch in Southwest Florida in the 1950s. His father and grandfather purchased the property in 1934 and ran a turpentine camp there. After Buster earned a degree at the University of Florida (UF) in the 1950s, he returned home to help his father diversify after the turpentine industry closed down. Buster ran the operations at the ranch until recently, but the progeny of the original founder of Longino Ranch still keep it all in the family. John Minton, nephew to Buster, accepted the award in Saratoga Springs.
The FWC’s Landowner Assistance Program partners with private landowners to achieve conservation benefits on private lands. The Longino Ranch has been an active participant in this program.
Chris Wynn heads up this program for the FWC, and he said the Longino Ranch has made the partnership a successful one.
“They developed conservation easements in perpetuity on half of the property,” Wynn said. “And they have been willing to participate in wildlife research with us and UF.”
One such research project by the FWC on this property involves tracking turkeys to determine wild turkey movements, nesting, reproduction and populations. The FWC has also awarded a grant for the installation of riser culverts to retain surface water and conserve groundwater in existing ditches. Wynn also cited Longino Ranch’s willingness to participate in outreach activities by hosting wildlife-related workshops and field days at the ranch.
“Their willingness and attention to managing Longino Ranch for wildlife while managing for other natural resources brought them to our attention,” Breault said. “They have been active partners in finding ways to effectively farm the land while protecting it for future generations.”