WASHINGTON COUNTY - Landowner George C. Owens is the 2017 Florida Land Steward of the Year. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its February meeting recognized Owens for managing his property with exemplary land stewardship through his innovative use of silvipasture practices.

Silvipasture is the practice of combining forestry and cattle grazing in a way that increases productivity for both. This practice has made the Owens Farm in northwest Florida more productive while also creating important environmental benefits.

“Conservation of private lands is so important as the state continues to grow and we’re approaching 21 million people,” said FWC Chairman Bo Rivard. “Without the cooperative efforts of private landowners, the conservation efforts we are trying to achieve would be impossible. Thank you to Mr. Owens and his family for being leaders in this effort.”

The Owens Farm, maintained by the family for over 100 years, is known as one of the most renowned silvipastures in the southeastern United States. Owens created his silvipasture in an open field, where he planted several rows of pine trees separated by alleys of bahiagrass. The silvipasture increased the farm’s cash flow with income from timber, hunting leases, beef production and forage crops while also benefitting wildlife and the environment. The practice improves soil and water quality and provides food, cover and nesting habitat for wildlife.

Learn more about the FWC’s Landowner Assistance Program and how the FWC partners with private landowners at MyFWC.com/LAP.