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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Moving cattle at Deseret Ranches of Florida. A section of the ranch could be transformed into new housing developments for half a million Floridians in the coming decades.

ST. CLOUD, Fla. — A section of one of the nation's largest ranches could be transformed into new housing developments for half a million Floridians in the coming decades.

Officials in the Orlando suburb of Osceola County have approved a framework for how to develop 133,000 acres belonging to Deseret Ranches, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The development would take place on land six times the size of Manhattan. But it represents less than half of the property the Deseret Ranches owns in central Florida.

Opponents say the plan could destroy tens of thousands of acres of important habitat near the headwaters of the St. Johns River and the Kissimmee River.

But other environmentalists say it's better to have a comprehensive plan rather than breaking off 1,000-acre tracts at a time for piecemeal development.

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