After Fred’s death in 1997, the heirs attempted to sell the property to the state. In 2005, discussions with the state were terminated and the family began accepting offers from private buyers. Fortunately, one of the prospective buyers shared the family’s desire to preserve as much of the ranch as possible.
Kitson & Partners purchased the 156,000 acre ranch on July 31, 2006 and on the same day, sold 80% of the ranch lands to the State of Florida and Lee County. The agreement that preserved more than 73,000 acres of the most environmentally valuable areas of the ranch still ranks as the largest single land preservation purchase in state history.
The land management plan called for ranching and other business operations, such as the eco-tour, to continue operating. Kitson was under contract to manage the preserve for the state until July of 2015, when Tarpon Blue Land & Resource Management was selected as the new contract manager.