The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has initiated a land assessment process to review the inventory of State Park land and environmental lands purchased under the Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 programs. This land is managed by a number of state agencies, including DEP, the Division of Recreation and Parks, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the Florida Division of Forestry.
Over 160 tracts have been nominated by DEP staff as possible surplus disposal candidates. Part of the purpose is to generate additional funds for land acquisition of “better” properties. The 2013 Legislature authorized as much as$50 million for new land purchases, primarily conservation easements, spring related purchases, and military base buffering (by protecting natural land around bases) if $50 million could be raised by surplus sales. While Audubon supports the idea that selling land not valuable for wildlife, water quality, water recharge, or recreational use could generate money to buy better lands, we view the choice of “what lands to sell” as something that deserves great scrutiny.
Audubon supports the sale of excess lands that haveno ecological, water resource, or recreational value. If DEP removes properties with those values from this list, Audubon supports the sale of lands with no conservation value to generate money for new land purchases.
The initial list of lands generated by a screening process has identified a number of properties appropriate to consider disposing of. However, it has also listed a number of properties for possible sale that should never be considered for disposal – properties which retain high wildlife and other environmental values which should remain in conservation.
All concerned about Florida’s Special Places, our state parks, preserves, beaches, water resources and wildlife should carefully look at this list and then click on the link to each listed property to see the aerial photos. Judge for yourself whether the preliminary recommendations are appropriate for state parks and preserve that you know and love.
When you have finished reviewing the sites, send your comments and objections directly to the Department of Environmental Protection at: ARC_mailinglist@dep.state.fl.us
Audubon Florida has identified a number of properties on the list that we believe are particularly important to retain; properties with significant, water quality, wetland, water recharge, wildlife habitat, endangered species and other values.