Articles, Blog

Adventure and Wildlife Hosted by the Shark Brothers – Episode 4


We are the Shark Brothers, and this, is
Adventure and Wildlife. ♫ music playing ♫ We’ve always lived the wild side, and that’s why we call this place home. The Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island coast. In this series we
explore all the good nature found here at Florida’s premier ecotourism
destination, where our best side is outside.
#bestsideoutside ♫ music playing ♫ (Sean): So what a Southwest Florida have in
common with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, diamond mines in South Africa, solar
power and the tourism and agriculture industry? (Brooks): I don’t know… But we’re going
to spend a few days out here in the Babcock Ranch Preserve and find out. [narration]: We’re at the dawn of a new era for this place, but it has a story spanning more than a
century. In 1914 Edward Babcock, lumber tycoon
and once mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, purchased the Crescent B ranch
in Punta Gorda, Florida. his biggest customers were diamond mines in South Africa, where pine tar harvested from the Babcock Ranch was used as termite repellant. Edward’s son, Fred, eventually expanded the family business well beyond timber and cattle… … and in the 1930s even began offering public swamp buggy tours In 2006, the 91,000 acre ranch was sold to developer Syd Kitson. A transaction
resulting in his creation of America’s first solar-powered town and the largest
single conservation acquisition in Florida’s history. Management of the newly named Babcock Ranch Preserve transferred from the state… … to Tarpon Blue Resource and Land Management in 2016. This collaboration
ensures preservation of the properties natural, cultural and agricultural
legacies. Today, the preserve’s 73,000 acres provide many recreational opportunities,
including a unique adventure experience offered by Babcock Ranch Eco Tours. This 90-minute ride on the wild side offers the public a fascinating journey through
time and nature. Tour guide Terry Covert has a wealth of knowledge about this place and a true passion for sharing it. (Brooks): We’ve taken this tour… it was so much fun,
we’ve taken it twice now. (Terry) yeah (Brooks) And we’ve seen so much on the tour, but,
for the viewers, what are the kind of animals animals they could expect to see on this tour? (Terry) We have a heard of cracker cattle and they’ll move around, so we get to see them in one area or another. (Terry on tour): Cracker cattle are descendants of the Andalusian Cattle brought to Florida in 1521 by the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon. They
roamed our state so very wild and free. Right now we get some feral hogs that
are coming to us. (Terry on tour): Feral hogs, wild pigs, look at these guys. These are truly wild Strutting of the turkeys– it is the
mating season, and those turkeys are fabulous. The gators today were impressive as well.
All those alligators out there, lots of them, sunning themselves. (Terry on tour): This bridge is
known as Gator bridge. Look at those alligators there- oh man there’s some big
boys out there. let me introduce to you baby girl (baby alligator). (Sean): Of all the animals and wildlife out here,
do you have a favorite? (Terry): I love my Florida Panther. (Sean) and you have a special bond
with him, don’t you… you’ve been really taking care of him? (Terry): the main thing about
“Osceola” is when you physically see him… … is how impressive he is. He is just an
amazing animal… he is just perfect. (Brooks): Beautiful. (Terry on tour): Osceola has been with us since September 12th of 2014. He was born at a facility in Miami, that’s where we got him from. He is living his retirement years
in luxury. (Sean): we’ve seen all ages of people… they are from all over.. and they seem fascinated with it (Terry): Everybody, no matter if they’re 2 years old or they are 82 years old, they can always learn something when they come. And that’s a
really big part of what we do here. We’re educating people through the different
ecosystems we go through. Through the wildlife that we have… We try to give as
much information about old Florida as we possibly can We talk about the cowboys
and how they work the cattle. They did that hundreds of years ago…
and the boys here do exactly the same way as they did back then.
Every time we have folks that come out… they come two, three, four times with
us, that a majority of the time they will tell us that they learn something new every
single time. We want them to enjoy themselves. We want them to experience the adventure that we give to them… but we also want to educate them. (Sean): You’ve been here for how long? (Terry): I’ve been a tour guide for 11 years. It’s just amazing. What can I say?… I love my job. (Brooks): And obviously you’re… very passionate
about it, and that comes across in your tours. It comes across whenever we
see you somewhere else on the property… I can tell you really love what you
do (Terry): I do absolutely I love it I love nature. I love the outdoors. (Sean): if you could
just put it in a nutshell for people that have never been here to encourage
them to come down here and what they may get out of the experience (Terry): They’re going
to get an experience of what old Florida is all about because we step back in
time to the 1500s. They’re gonna get a lot of knowledge.
They’re gonna see amazing animals and the people that are gonna take them out
on those tours they’re gonna be very passionate about everything that they
know. That’s it in a nutshell. (Sean): It’s important work you’re doing. (Brooks): We’re gonna tell as
many people as we can… …because out here at Babcock Ranch Preserve, Babcock Ranch Eco Tours is absolutely fantastic. It really is. (Terry): Thank You. (Brooks narration): When planning your visit,
just make a day of it… … and experience all they’ve got to
offer. The visitor center has informative exhibits, a gift shop, and the Gator Shack
restaurant with Chef John Anderson’s homemade country-style menu has
something for just about everybody. Tell them the Shark Brothers sent you, and
be sure to bring your sense of adventure and by all means don’t forget your
camera. (Narration): With another big day ahead we grab some rest and southern hospitality
at the Cypress Lodge, built by Fred Babcock as his home
on the Telegraph Swamp. A prominent feature of the preserve, this vast forested wetland also plays a vital role in the health of regional aquifers and other ecosystems,
including the Charlotte Harbor estuary, Caloosahatchee River and even the
Everglades. When the state purchased the ranch in
2005 it was considered the crowning jewel of its Florida Forever program.
Today it’s the largest state owned working cattle ranch that’s privately
managed. We had a chance to see this public-private partnership in action and to meet some of the people carrying on the kind of work and traditions that
have shaped the agricultural heritage here. When ranch manager David Yates and
his crew hit the office they’ve got a lot of ground to cover. We did our best
to keep off of them. (Brooks): We’ve just had a blast out here the last few days and can’t thank you enough for letting us tag along. (Sean): It just strikes me as, you
know, this is the kind of work that built America, man. (Brooks): Exactly. (Sean): It was an honor to watch it being done and your crews outstanding. Again, you
know, obviously you’ve got some people you’ve worked with for a long time. (Brooks): And speaking that type of work. I’ve just been thinking out here, it takes me back to,
you know, old America, but how much I mean it really probably hasn’t changed much, (it’s) probably (like) 100 years ago, or more… …that… they’re doing the same work (David): That’s right. (Brooks): Cowmen, dogs, (David):Dogs, horses…yeah, the only thing different now is we probably work cattle more… …with more medication to them and keeping them
healthier so we actually are in the cattle maybe a little more than they
used to be but but yeah, it hasn’t changed a whole lot. (Sean): The dogs were
ever-present whole time we were out there and they seemed like a) they
love it (and) b) they’re really good at what they do. Do you got to train them up to do
that or they just kind of fall in line? (David): yeah, they kind of fall in line. You got a
few lead dogs to kind of train the rest of them and it’s just you know all
usually training for just to come back, you know, come back and go when you send them . (Sean): You know it doesn’t take long to come out here and start driving around
and realize this is a vast property we’re talking about about 70,000 acres,
right? (David): That’s right. (Sean): And, on that acreage I know there’s a lot of other
uses with the property, I mean as far as agriculturally, but as far as your cattle
goes… how many you got and how wide do they roam on 70,000 acres? Yeah we we’ve got about 2,500 head they run over 50 plus thousand acres. Some of it’s farmed that we have about 4,000 acres of farmland and so will will graze it for a
few years and then they’ll farmer for a few years on the grass patches. (Sean): I mean, you guys ride around places out here the environments are all very different. and… this is Elvis, by the way let’s just introduce Elvis to the audience right now… …we met him the
last couple of days… … There’s been an Elvis sighting (David):Oh yeah.
(group laughing) (Sean): But, you’ve got a lot of different areas that you go to that you can only get to on horses right? (David): Yeah, that’s why you don’t do it off of a
four-wheeler or motorcycles or things like that because you can only get there
off of the horse and between cypress swamps and cabbage hammocks and pine
flatwoods you just you just can’t go. (Brooks): How do you decide where to work and where to move ? (David): We’re kind of always chasing grass, you know, cows on new grass and keeps them healthy. And then, as far as, you know, where we move them to and how we move
them and things like that you’ll see alot of times we’ll just stop. We’re just actually letting the cows get together and find all their babies, and when
they know where their babies are and they’re calm, then everything goes a lot
better. And with cows the slower you can be the faster it’ll go. (Sean): It struck me as like there actually is kind of a rhythm to the whole thing (David): Yes. (Sean): you know and
there’s a purpose for everything that you’re doing and and when you’re
looking at the herd, I mean, you know what’s going through your mind as far as
like their health… what are you looking for? (David): You’re evaluating them as you’re handling them, you know, if you
see a sick calf or a sick cow a lot of these guys immediately they’ll start
trying to find out which calf goes to which cow so that when we get to the
Cowpens they’ll have it in their head who she belongs to
and we may pull them out and put them somewhere else. You may medicate them
differently… things like that. You’re always paying attention to what’s
going on in the herd and the health of the herd and there again just seeing if
they need to be moved or if they need to be medicated what they need. (Brooks): I couldn’t help but thinking out there when you told us you know stay close because they
might look at us as predators. Do you have to worry about that, I mean, with the
Coyotes out here or what other predators do you worry about you know getting
in with your herds? (David): You know probably as far as predators go, coyotes is probably the biggest when it’s calving season, you start to see a lot of them when these
calves or when the cows are dropping calves you’ll notice a lot of coyotes
out in the cows. And, of course we try to shoot
them and get them out of here. We have Panthers we really haven’t had much
trouble out of that we found a calf or two that we suspected, but I know some of
the ranches further south of here starting to have troubles with that. But
other than that, a rattlesnake bite here and there, but usually they don’t die
from that. They’re pretty tough (Brooks): Iguess the herd it’s constantly growing then as well, right? (David): Well it grows every year but then we sell the calves. We sell
a course naturally sell all the steer calves and then you keep 10% of the
females to keep your herd, you know, to keep it light, to keep it healthy. So if you
got let’s say, had 2,000 head of mama cows and you would really buy
rights keep 10% of the heifer of the female heifers, so you know you’re gonna
have 200 head of female heifers every year. And so you keep it at that constant.
It doesn’t just keep growing and growing and growing (Brooks): So it’s constant management
(David): yeah, yeah and that and that’s all determined on how much grass we got and
how much pasture we have. (Sean): You mentioned heifers, I was curious about the Bulls you got. They don’t mate for life, right? (David): yeah that’s right. We put one bull to 25 cows.
(Sean): Is that right? (David): So 100 cows for 4 bulls
(Sean): He must be tired (David): And they found that one bull does most of that breeding, too. (Sean): Is that right?
(David): Yeah he’s a big dog in town. (Brooks): Where do these cows end up, I mean, who buys them? You think I might have ever had a steak from Babcock Ranch preserve? (David): It’s very possible, but most of our most of our calves… …we sell them, at let’s just say,
five to six hundred pound calf and they go out west to be fed. Florida’s a little
too hot and wet for for feeding cattle. …our cattle in Florida, for the most part, go out west and they get fed out there. (Sean): It’s like a big balancing act, sounds like. like and you’ve been doing this all your life?since I was (David): Since I was about 16. (Sean):So what’s that like, about 10 years? (David): yeah yeah (all laugh) – Make it 5!
How many grey hairs you got? (all laughing) (Sean): Of all the things that you do and all the responsibilities that you have… What’s the biggest challenges that you maybe face on a regular basis out here? (David): Really out here mostly on the ranches, in all honesty, weather. (Brooks): Something you just can’t control
(David): That’s right you can’t because it’s a variable that you can’t control we had a
hurricane, now we’ve had we’ve had a fairly strong winter and last spring we
had a hundred year drought. There’s nothing we can do about that. (Brooks): Well, we wish you fair weather and good luck, David. (Sean): Really an honor to tag along and watch what you guys do. It puts a whole new appreciation, for a… you look at a cow you don’t realize what goes into into taking care of him, you know?
(David): I’m glad ya’ll came out (Sean): Yeah, thanks for having us.
(David): You bet, man. (Brooks):Let’s go get some lunch. (Sean, to horse): Hey Elvis… we’ll see ya later buddy. [narration] On our way to lunch at the Gator Shack, we had the good fortune of running into Arnie Sarlo one of the partners at
Tarpon Blue Resource and Land Management. (Sean): What’s the biggest challenge
in carrying this forward this plan? (Arnie): Well from the start it was a challenge just because they wanted to leave it as a working ranch and the challenge back
then was they seen a lot of pieces of property the state bought and then they
quit all the activities that generally don’t go: cattle, sod, farming… those
operations… they remove them from the state and what happens when the property
starts to grow up and it doesn’t stay and it costs more to keep it in…
especially exotic control, maintaining the roads… so by having a group like
Tarpon Blue or Kitson and Partners or whoever is on the land… managing it, they
keep the upkeep and it saves the state money and that’s what the whole purpose
was to remain a working ranch but then balance it with the environment and
still preserve the wildlife and all the natural parts of it which we were able
to do here. yeah I mean that’s (Sean): I mean it’s fascinating to us in the time that we’ve been here to see how all that interplay takes place… in a successful way. It just
seems like it’s not just an investment to manage. it seems like there’s a real
pride and appreciation for for the land here in the end mother nature I guess. (Arnie): You nailed our our lifestyle and it is “We’re stewards of the land,” you hear that a lot. And it’s not just a phrase… We all take care of it. We want this land in
good shape (Sean): How important is it to you that the mark that you’re gonna leave
that people may be talking about, you know, 50 to 100 years from now? (Arnie): Well I think when anybody comes out and enjoys the land… that’s the success of a legacy
started all the way back with Fred Babcock and then his son-in-law who was the CEO and then Syd Kitson who bought it. There was about four or
five buyers as big as Kitson, but Kitson had a plan that aligned most with the
Babcock’s and it was keeping it as a preserve, and so and then he kept a lot of
his development in preserve but between the Babcock family and (unresolved) to
Syd Kitson and they wanted this preserve I’m very fortunate to get to win that
contract with my partners to come back and manage it and we just to keep this
legacy going and I mean to be able to run cattle and do the things that we
enjoy doing out here on the state land, that’s an honor. [narration]: It’s no exaggeration to say the story of
this special place in Southwest Florida is epic. An evolving tale of nature and
people with a true love and respect for this land that’s been passed on through
generations. In this conservation spotlight segment developer Syd Kitson shares how those same values and some core initiatives are balancing modern
development with the surrounding environment. [Syd]: We started looking for
places to create our new town and we started looking at Charlotte County and
we’d spend quite a bit of time looking at the area. I felt that, well, first of all Southwest Florida was absolutely spectacular Everything about Southwest Florida we we liked. You had great transportation to
come in and out. There was a diverse economy, a diverse group of people, and we really felt that there was great opportunity in this area. Most people don’t know, that the state of Florida was trying to buy Babcock Ranch. But the family, the Babcock family, wanted to sell the stock of the company… and the state can’t buy stock. And then they put it out on the market there were people all over the world trying to buy the property. All 91,000 acres. And part of what they
wanted to do was to it was to develop the entire parcel. So we approached the Babcock family and said “We have a different concept.” “We want to preserve as much
of this land as possible.” And to the credit of that family, they understood and they decided to to go with us because the legacy, their legacy and the
legacy of this property was more important than just dollars. And so
that’s when the journey began. We purchased 91,000 acres back in 2006 and then we sold 73,000 acres to the State of Florida in the largest land purchase in the history of the state… still is to this day. So that left us
with 18,000 acres and out of the 18,000 acres, we’re preserving half of that. So at
the end of the day, 90% of the original ranches are in preservation
forever and that is something that this area is going to be able to enjoy for
generations and that’s probably of all the things that we’ve done probably the
thing that we’re proud of. How you treat the environment
and how we can live with the environment is very very important. We went out to prove that preservation and development can work hand in hand. When we started designing Babcock Ranch, we kind of step back and took a look at
this canvas that we had, remember… we have almost 9,000 acres that is literally a blank sheet of paper for us to to develop. and that is a big responsibility but also something that gives you just a very unique opportunity. A unique opportunity to do it the right way. And so we started looking at the land and
and we went back almost 40 years to look at the natural flow-ways of the property. And we designed around those natural flow-ways, and actually have re-hydrated
so many of the areas that had been drained over the years for farming
purposes. And then we said, “Okay, let’s try and only develop in those areas that
have already been farmed.” So we didn’t want to take out any of the forested areas because there was plenty of areas that were farmed areas . And, ah, that’s so then that’s how the plan itself began to come together. We are very proud to have a partnership with Lee Health, who is going to take on all
of the health services at Babcock Ranch. But you know that healthy lifestyle means so many things, so just from the entire fabric of our community with our parks, and every neighborhood having its own gardens, to the 50 miles of trails… is encouraging everybody to be outside and really think about that healthy lifestyle. Education is one of those initiatives that we’re very, very passionate about. The current school right now is K-6. The new school will be K-8. And so the education we think is absolutely critical. You cannot have a sustainable community unless you think about where the energy comes from. And so we spent, gosh, almost seven or eight years working with Florida Power and Light, to create the first solar powered town
in America. And so here today, Florida Power and Light has built a 75 megawatt solar power generating facility on our property here at Babcock Ranch. So what that means is, they put in 343,000 panels on 440 acres… and that’s operating today. So right now, when you look around and you see the lights in this room, they’re all being powered by
solar energy And at night when the sun goes down, it’s powered by natural gas. So the combination of those two make it the cleanest form of energy of any town in America. One of the other things that we’ve been really spending quite a bit of time on is technology. And we know how complex this is because things are changing so quickly. So what we talked about internally was, how do we at least future-proof… what it is that we’re trying to do. And the best way we could think of doing that was to is to have fiber to every home. That’s exactly we’ve done. we have a partnership with CenturyLink So that means every home and business will have a gigabit of speed. And it can go up to five gigabits. Now, technology is going to change, and things are gonna happen… but we think we’re well positioned to to be able to handle that. But then we turn to transportation. And transportation is very unique in that things are changing fast. And it was some 6 years ago we started looking into autonomous vehicles. The societal benefits are numerous. So we decided to do that here at Babcock Ranch and we’re very fortunate to have TransDev as our partner. They’re the largest transportation company in the world. Here at Babcock Ranch, we have the distinct advantage of being 30 feet above sea level. And as I said earlier, that’s a virtual mountain here in Florida, and we’re above the storm surge. We also didn’t build in the flood plains and we didn’t build in the wetlands So when an event comes through, we want to be a place where people can stay in place or come to shelter. So that was very important. The way all these buildings are built, they can withstand hurricane-force winds, and the infrastructure also, all the power lines and everything else is underground. So we really are designed and made for storm safety. I don’t know if I would consider myself a pioneer… But, I would consider myself someone who has a passion about something, along with a great group of people in our
organization who have a passion for something very special. And we
collectively want to make it great. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us.
We’re just starting and we all know that. From the leaders in the in the community, and whether it be in Charlotte County or the state… this has been a true team
effort to get this done And I am incredibly thankful for each and every
one of them to help us along the way. [narration]: We thank you for joining us. And thanks to all our special guests for sharing their knowledge and know-how. To explore our good nature, log on to PUREFLORIDA.COM for all the
information you need to plan your getaway. From the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast, We are the Shark Brothers. Until next time… “Keep it wild!”

1
Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *