This is available in full at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/AcqHistory.htm. Authors James A Farr and O Greg Brock are with the Florida Division of State Lands.
Florida continues to lead the nation in purchasing property to protect natural resources and provide resource-based recreation. Our programs have been successful for many reasons, the most important of which is the enthusiastic support, even demands, of our citizenry, who do not have to live in Florida for very long to notice treasured areas being lost to development at the alarming rate of 165,000 acres each year (an average of 453 acres daily) and who are keenly aware of the need to preserve our natural areas to provide a basis for our tourism-based economy. Our political leaders have recognized the popularity of natural resource protection and have responded with a series of land conservation programs spanning more than four decades. funding for our programs has been based primarily on activities that have resulted in the need for conservation: documentary stamp taxes on real estate transactions, which are becoming increasingly numerous as development continues, and severance taxes on environmentally damaging mineral extraction activities.
Our programs invite public participation throughout the process, beginning with the ability of anyone to submit an application, through the project evaluation and selection process, the development of management plans, and oversight of how the lands are managed. there are public conservation and resource-based recreation lands in each of our 67 counties, with large tracts accessible to all citizens within relatively short distances. Our citizens have clearly been rewarded for their support and participation with a myriad of conservation lands available for their enjoyment.
Finally, and most importantly, we have been successful in preserving for posterity a substantial portion of our natural heritage. Our natural lands contain hundreds of listed species, our most imperiled vegetative communities, significant cultural and historical sites, watersheds and water recharge areas. Our lands contain rivers, lakes, springs, beaches, central Florida scrub, north Florida sandhills, significant wetlands, and an incredible variety of upland habitats. They provide us a myriad of recreational opportunities, including nature study, camping, hiking, swimming, canoeing, hunting and fishing. Our 159-unit system of State Parks has twice been awarded the National Recreation and Parks Association’s Gold Medal Award, honoring Florida as the Nation’s “Best State Park Service.” through our environmental land acquisition efforts we are able to embark on restoration of large natural areas like the Florida Everglades and north Florida longleaf pine habitats. Our citizens, their descendents, and our visitors have all gained a heightened quality of life.