The History of Babcock Ranch
Originally lured to the area for hunting, Pittsburgh lumber magnate Edward Vose Babcock purchased the 91,000-acre tract of land known as Crescent B Ranch in 1914. At the time, the Babcock Ranch property stretched across a significant portion of Southwest Florida and was used for logging and agriculture. Despite the phenomenal growth in Florida since then, Babcock Ranch continued to exist much as it did when E.V. Babcock first purchased it, thanks to the responsible stewardship of the Babcock Family.
In the 1930’s, Fred C. Babcock, the son of Edward, assumed day-to-day responsibility of managing the Ranch. A great advocate for preserving natural spaces, Fred Babcock is credited with establishing the tradition of cattle ranching and stewardship that has become synonymous with Babcock Ranch.
In keeping with this commitment to the land, Fred began the process of replenishing the depleted forests on the Babcock property. He oversaw the management of the property to ensure its continued beauty. He arranged for the elimination of exotic plant species and also established some of the property’s more creative endeavors, such as alligator and ostrich farming.
In the 1940’s, Fred entered into a contract with Florida’s Commission of Game and Fresh Water Fish (the predecessor to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) to sell 19,200 acres and donate substantial additional acreage that would become the Fred C. Babcock-Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area. During the course of Fred’s tenure at the Ranch, he also donated large amounts of land to the State on the condition that it be set aside for preservation. Fred managed the property with this attention to sustainability and stewardship until his death in 1997 at the age of 83.
After Fred’s death, the State of Florida entered into discussions with the Babcock Florida Company to purchase the entire Babcock property, but the negotiations eventually ended when the family was unable to reach an agreement with the State.
The climate of conservation that surrounds Babcock Ranch today is due in great part to the philosophies and management principals established by the Babcock Family. As Florida’s ranchlands began to disappear, the Babcock property prospered. Babcock Ranch is one-of-a-kind in Florida and its preservation is important to the surrounding communities as well as to the State.