Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved the acquisition of more than 1,275 acres to protect environmentally sensitive areas in Monroe and Washington counties. This approval is the final step before land can be purchased for these two Florida Forever projects.
Governor Scott said, “This more than $4-million investment will protect our springs and environment to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy Florida’s natural treasures.”
“Governor Scott and the Cabinet took important steps today to protect two very different, but equally important areas of Florida,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “While each of these projects has a different purpose, they all protect and improve water-quality in our state, which has been a major priority for this administration.”
“The purchase of these valuable conservation lands not only offers significant water quality protection, but also benefits birds and wildlife in the regions,” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida executive director. “Audubon applauds the efforts of DEP for acquiring this land and the Florida Board of Trustees for supporting these important purchases.”
“The purchase of these Florida Forever priority lands is movement in the right direction,” said Janet Bowman with the Nature Conservancy. “It’s encouraging to see Cabinet’s support for the purchase of these valuable lands that offer important water-resource protection for springs and estuaries, coastal protection and critical habitat for wildlife.”
The first acquisition is a 928.3-acre parcel within the Florida Keys Ecosystem Florida Forever project, which will help safeguard the Outstanding Florida Waters of the Keys. In addition, this property will preserve hardwood hammocks and many rare plants and animals, including the North American crocodile, Lower Keys marsh rabbit and Key deer.
This parcel, purchased for $3.6 million, will also help protect recreational and commercial fisheries, reefs around the islands and give residents and visitors more areas for enjoying the natural beauty of the Keys. The property will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as an addition to the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area.
The second acquisition is within the Florida’s First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever project in Washington County and consists of 347.6 acres from Plum Creek Land Company. The parcel, purchased for $780,000, is adjacent to land owned by the Northwest Florida Water Management District, which will manage this new property.
The project is located along Holmes Creek, which is primarily a spring-fed creek containing a total of 51 springs within a 25-mile reach of the creek. The acquisition will ensure greater spring protection, while maintaining the current public access for fishing, hunting, canoeing, kayaking, boating and hiking. There is a boat ramp onsite, which will remain and is currently leased and managed by Washington County.
Earlier this month, DEP announced the Division of State Lands surpassed the goal of selling $40 million of non-conservation land to purchase new, valuable conservation lands. These two acquisitions are examples of the important properties the department is seeking to acquire with these funds.