Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape

  • Florida

  • Established 2016

About

Located in south central Florida, the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape covers almost 1,700,000 acres of land and is known for its rich biodiversity and abundance of private ranches. The sentinel landscape is anchored by the Air Force’s largest primary air-to-ground training range east of the Mississippi River, which is used by every branch of the Armed Forces. The sentinel landscape is also home to portions of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, a 900-acre parcel that buffers the installation from incompatible development and offers excellent opportunities for hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities. In 2016, local partners forged the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape to preserve the region’s ecological assets and strengthen military readiness by helping private landowners manage their properties sustainably.

Interactive Landscape Map

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Total Funding by Partner

Partner Funding Through Fiscal Year 2019 In Millions
PartnerFY2015FY2016FY2017FY2018FY2019
USDA $0.90M $0.60M $1.50M $1.60M $13.30M
DoD $1.50M $6.60M $1.00M $1.20M $2.00M
DOI $3.10M $7.20M $2.70M $2.60M $2.00M
State $1.60M $7.40M $6.70M $4.30M $39.50M
Local $0.00M $0.00M $0.00M $0.50M $0.70M
Private $0.00M $0.10M $0.10M $2.00M $1.90M

Total Acres Protected and Enrolled

Acres Protected61781.49
Acres Enrolled744112.20

Partnership Highlights

Protecting the Everglades Headwaters

In April 2019, the Open Space Institute, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permanently protected 4,000 acres of the Triple Diamond Ranch, which will enhance biodiversity and water security in the region.  Situated in the heart of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, Triple Diamond Ranch joins a contiguous network of 200,000 acres of protected land across central Florida.  This land serves as a wildlife corridor in one of the fastest-growing regions in the country where accelerated development can disrupt migration patterns.  The property itself is covered in dry prairie habitat—a globally imperiled natural community—that supports numerous at-risk species, including the Florida grasshopper sparrow, gopher tortoise, and the eastern indigo snake.  Permanent protection of the Triple Diamond Ranch will also enhance water quality for the immediate area and downstream into the country’s largest subtropical wetland.  The property provides natural filtration for water that flows directly into the Kissimmee River, feeding Lake Okeechobee and, ultimately, the Everglades.  

Partners Increase Accessibility to Landowner Benefits

All government assistance programs active in sentinel landscapes are voluntary.  That means their success depends not only on landowner interest but also on landowner awareness.  In June 2019, CFRPC hosted the first large-scale landowner assistance expo in central Florida, known as LAX 2019. The event gathered 17 organizations to present benefits related to wildlife restoration, alternative crops, farm loans, tax preparation, and conservation easements.  To those that participated, LAX 2019 was an overwhelming success.  Attendees came away with a better understanding of assistance programs in their region, while government organizations had the opportunity to participate in community-driven outreach.  In October 2019, LAX 2019 received an Impact Award from the National Association of Development Organizations during its annual training conference.  Given this positive feedback, CFRPC plans to host a second iteration of the event in the future.

Historic Ranch Protection Strengthens Military Readiness

For over ten years, Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape partners have worked together to protect the Rafter T Ranch.  In September 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program, the Nature Conservancy, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Florida Defense Support Task Force, Highlands County, and the Central Florida Regional Planning Council (CFRPC) acquired an easement on the last unprotected portion of the property, marking the completion of one of the earliest collaborative efforts among partners.  Spanning 5,200 acres across the Florida Heartland, the Rafter T Ranch stitches together a series of conserved properties around the Avon Park Air Force Range, creating a natural corridor for imperiled species such as the Florida panther, Florida black bear, Florida scrub-jay, and southern fox squirrel.  Contiguous land protection at this scale precludes development that may disrupt the Range’s ability to effectively use its low-altitude airspace, which is necessary for the installation to carry out its national defense mission.  It also supports water conservation efforts by buffering the Kissimmee River and other tributaries to Lake Okeechobee, while also precluding development in an area critical to aquifer recharge, thus augmenting groundwater supplies.  

Our Partners

In The News

  • Avon Park Bombing Range Awarded a Sentinel Landscape Partnership

    In this article, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation recognizes the value of Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape designation. The Florida Farm Bureau highlights that local farmers stand to benefit from this designation as new opportunities are recognized.

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  • Stewards of the Land-Air Force Ranges Support Environmental and Cultural Conservation

    In this article, Airman Magazine recognizes Avon Park Air Force Range and Nellis Air Force Base as strong stewards of natural and cultural resources. The article specifically highlights Avon Park Air Force Range’s management of threatened and endangered species.

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  • Central Florida Regional Planning Council Organizes Landowner Assistance Expo

    In this article, the Florida Regional Councils Association highlights central Florida’s Landowner Assistance Expo. The Expo was a component of the Central Florida Regional Planning Council’s coordination of the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape Partnership.

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Resources

  • 2020 Sentinel Landscapes Accomplishments Report

  • Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape Fact Sheet 2020

  • 2019 Sentinel Landscapes Accomplishments Report

  • Avon Park Air Force Range Fact Sheet 2019

  • Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape Conservation Guide

  • Landowner Assistance Expo Briefings

Meet the Coordinator

Chad Allison

avonpark@sentinellandscapes.org

Chad is a Program Manager with the Central Florida Regional Planning Council. He holds a bachelor's degree in Wildlife Management and has worked in the field of natural resources on both military and nonmilitary lands since 2003. He is a Certified Wildlife Biologist®, licensed pesticide applicator, and a Florida certified prescribed burn manager.

“Sentinel Landscapes is a unique partnership endeavor, providing opportunities to join forces to further protect and preserve valuable agricultural lands, privately-owned forest lands and natural resources, ensuring they are available for future generations while protecting the important mission of our armed forces.”

Mr. James "Jim" Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service