This paper is available on http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/AcqHistory.htm. Authors: James A Farr, Environmental Supervisor, Office of the Environmental Services, Fl Division of State Lands, and O Greg Brock, Chief, Office of Environmental Services, Florida Division of State Lands.
The State of Florida has had a long and successful history of purchasing land to conserve its unique natural and cultural resources. Buoyed by phenomenal support from the general public, Florida’s Legislature, with the support of a succession of both Democratic and Republican governors, has enacted a series of well-funded programs over the pat half century that have resulted in the purchase and protection of over six million acres of conservation lands. When combined with substantial federal conservation lands in Florida (including large military bases) and holdings by local governments, Florida has almost ten million acres that are managed for natural resource protection and for resource-based recreation. This is approximately 30 percent of our total land area. Since 1990, we have had an annual land acquisition budget of $300 million, far exceeding that of any other state or even that of the Federal government for use in all fifty states.
The popular and political support for environmental protection in Florida stems from three primary factors. First because of its high rate of population growth — over 18 million residents with a net population increase of 960 each day or 350,000 each year — natives and immigrants alike have witnessed the destruction of natural areas that they once took for granted. Second, Florida’s natural environment provides the foundation for its annual $57- billion dollar tourism industry; destruction of our natural environment would seriously harm our state’s economy. Finally, environmental protection is beginning to be seen as important economically in its own right both as a means of containing urban sprawl, with its concomitant costs to local governments for providing infrastructure away from population centers, and as an amenity for new development. Because our rapid development is the cause of destruction of our natural areas, funding environmental land acquisition for the past several decades has been predominantly through collection of documentary stamp taxes paid on all real estate transactions.