David “Lefty” Durando was born on the edge of Florida’s Everglades in Hialeah, Florida. He grew up with a love for agriculture and Florida’s natural environment. He began working as a cowboy while a teenager and began professional bull riding at age 19. He won multiple championships across the country over a period of 18 years. In the late 1970’s he turned to his true passion, and became a full-time cattle rancher. For the last 40 years he has been cattle ranching across Florida; today he and his family have cattle ranches spanning 20,000 acres.
He has combined his love of ranching with his love for Florida’s wildlife; the Durando Family Ranches are managed for native wildlife and contain high quality habitat that is dedicated towards that purpose. Lefty is an active participant in numerous state and federal programs to manage his ranches for native ecosystems and various listed and other focal species that depend on them. His ranch in Okeechobee County is part of an essential network of wildlife corridors in Florida and provides habitat for listed species including the Florida panther, Audubon’s caracara, wood stork, Everglades snail kite, gopher tortoise, and is being managed to restore habitat for the most endangered bird in the United States, the Florida grasshopper sparrow.
He was instrumental in establishing the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in 2012, and has been active in lobbying on a federal and state level for conservation easement funding for the Northern Everglades. He works closely with federal and state government agencies in developing landowner incentive programs for wildlife management. He is currently a Board Member for Partners for Conservation, a national landowner-led organization that promotes conservation incentive programs and stronger relationships between landowners and government agencies.