April 23, 1993 – Walker Ranch Officially Becomes Disney Wilderness Preserve
“Without [Carol Browner’s] vision, we would continue to have the kind of thoughtless development that has been consuming Florida.” – Dick Weinstein, The Nature Conservancy.
On April 23, 1993, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held a special ceremony as the famed Walker Ranch became the new Disney Wilderness Preserve. Spearheaded by Carol Browner, who was then the secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, Disney bought the property to compensation for the 12 miles of wetlands the company is to tear down for the purposes of expanding Walt Disney World; the plan had Disney hand the reins of the former ranch to the Nature Conservancy to turn it into a preservation site, with Disney handling all costs associated. Though the ranch had several instances of foresting and dredging on the property, it was still considered a key piece of the 45,000 acres that make the headway of the Kissimmee River, and was also home to two endangered species: the bald eagle and the wood stork.