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CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us 


DATE:             March 28, 2014

TO:                 Interested Parties

FROM:           DEP Press Office

RE:                 State Conservation Land Assessment

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will cease its comprehensive land sale effort and will shift its focus to potential sales of non-conservation land, such as the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, as a means to fund Florida Forever purchases in the future.


The Department’s Division of State Lands spent six months reviewing more than 3 million acres of conservation land in order to determine what could be deemed no longer needed for conservation purposes. It was the first time in the state’s history this type of comprehensive assessment has ever been conducted.


“I’m thankful for the efforts of our staff, who conducted many public meetings and sought public comment to make this a transparent process,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “We will continue to assess our land, determine what should be sold and we are excited about the possibility of selling non-conservation land to fund conservation land purchases to protect our springs, water resources and buffer military bases.”


As a result of this study, Division staff has significantly increased its understanding of the land owned by the state. The Division also learned more about the land management issues our state faces; an important factor given that government owns about one third of all land in Florida. After months of evaluating and paring the 3 million acres of state-owned conservation land to roughly 5,200 acres, that list was reduced due to legal and title issues, knowledge about endangered species habitat and other factors. 


The Department will continue to buy and sell conservation land in the way it has done for decades with the involvement of the local community – the state has sold roughly 3,000 acres since 2000, generating $14.5 million in revenue. In addition, the Department will seek land to buy, like the closing in October on the second-largest conservation easement in Florida's history -- roughly 21,000 acres that buffers Eglin Air Force Base and provides wildlife habitat and aquifer recharge qualities. 

Finally, this assessment process and the lessons learned during that process has energized the Department to undertake an inventory of the state’s non-conservation lands. 

About the Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s principal environmental agency, created to protect, conserve and manage Florida’s environment and natural resources. The Department enforces federal and state environmental laws, protects Florida’s air and water quality, cleans up pollution, regulates solid waste management, promotes pollution prevention and acquires environmentally-sensitive lands for preservation. The agency also maintains a statewide system of parks, trails and aquatic preserves. To view the Department’s website log on to www.dep.state.fl.us.


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See our story as told by the lovely and talented Bianca Castro of WFTV news:


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In the frantic final days of the 2013 legislative session, legislators approved proviso language in the budget which allocated $70 million to purchase new conservation lands buffering military bases and providing spring protection.  The idea sounded good but it came with a catch. Out of the $70 million, $50 million had to come from the sale of existing "surplus" conservation lands.  Legislators were told that Florida had expendable scrub parcels in the middle of nowhere that were not needed, therefore the impact of the sale would be negligible.

To meet its obligation under the proviso and in efforts to identify $50 million in surplus conservation lands, the Department of Environmental Protection set up a rating system to identify which parcels were "surplus."  They came up with an initial list of parcels but were told that more were needed to get up to the $50 million mark.  So they went back and surplused more and more lands until they had a list of many parcels.  Over the course of several public hearings of people outraged at significant factors not used in the process, the DEP narrowed the list down to 77 parcels from state parks and wildlife refuges:

A link to the list of parcels to be sold is here:


We feel this process for identifying "surplus" conservation lands is flawed.  The DEP is under a time constraint to sell these parcels before the next legislative session begins in March of 2014.  The DEP has ignored several constitutional and administrative laws in the course of its process.  Several if not most of these parcels were purchased under the Florida Forever program in which the sellers discounted the price received for their parcel because the State of Florida agreed to have the property "PRESERVED IN PERPETUITY."  Now. only a few years later, these parcels may be sold to developers and used to bring in houses and strip malls where deer and black bears currently roam.

Florida needs conservation lands to recharge the Floridan aquifer.  It needs lands set aside so that new development does not add to nutrient pollutions in its springs, lakes, rivers and estuaries.

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