Tag Archives: Threatened species

Eglin AFB Operations Plan for Military Training on Blackwater River State Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest

I have excerpted the Annual Operations Plan (and agreement between Eglin AFB and the Florida Department of Agriculture) in the sister blog http://www.letterstograsi-flofficials.com.  It is too long for me to retype it here.

You can also view the 14 page plan at http://www.pnj.com/interactive/article/99999999/NEWS12/131017014/Timeline-Eglin-s-proposed-military-training-Blackwater-River-State-Forest?nclick_check=1

Listed species – Blackwater River State Forest


Gopher Tortoise

Blackwater River State Forest is home to many species on the federally endangered and threatened list.

  • 1 Fish
  • 5  Amphibians
  • 8 Reptiles
  • 5 Birds
  • 3 Mammals
  • 54 Invertebrates
  • 19 Plants and Lichens

The Nature Conservancy says of Blackwater River State Park:

“Considered by many as Florida’s premier state forest, Blackwater River State Forest — 209,571 acres and counting — is the bedrock of a conservation complex that hosts an amazing 300 species of birds and 2,500 species of plants.  One of the most biologically rich areas in the US, the forest is part of a vital nature corridor that gently rolls from Conecuh National Forest along the Florida-Alabama line to the Gulf of Mexico.”

“The state forest is a significant piece of the largest, continuous longleaf pine/wiregrass forest complex in the world. Once blanketing the entire southeastern United States, only 3 percent of that vast forest survives today.

For more:  see http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates.

Conclusion – Part IX of 9

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.


This is available in full from http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/AcqHistory.htm,  Authors are James A Farr and O Greg Brock, Florida Division of State Lands.

We could not tell a complete story of successful land acquisition programs in Florida without mentioning the extraordinary role of local governments.  Since 1972, 29 of Florida’s 67 counties, eight municipalities, and the Lake County Water Authority have developed their own local land acquisition programs.   Most of these have resulted from local referendums in which citizens have voted overwhelmingly to increase their sales taxes or property taxes to fund land acquisition and management.  Much of the incentive for these programs has come from the ability of local governments to receive matching funds from state programs like CARL, Florida forever, the Florida Communities Trust and Water Management Districts to assist in purchasing lands of local and regional significance.  Local governments in Florida have raised more than $2 billion and have been responsible for the purchase of approximately 375,000 acres of conservation and resource-based recreation lands, an astonishing feat in this era of tax reform and private property rights.


This can also be viewed on http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands.AcqHistory.htm.  Authors are  James A. Farr and O. Greg Brock, Florida Division of State Lands

Every parcel of state-owned conservation and resource-based recreat land must have a manger assigned to it.   We have four primary land managers within the state system.  The Division of Recreation and Parks within DEP manages our state park system, which includes state parks, state recreation areas and state preserves.   The Office of coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas, also in DEP, manages aquatic preserves, our three National Estuarine Research Reserves and the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary.  The Division of Forestry, housed in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages the state forest system.  Finally, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (formerly the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, but now merged with the former Marine Fisheries Commission) manages Wildlife Management Areas, with an emphasis on hunting, and Wildlife and Environmental Areas, with an emphasis on protecting listed species.   The Division of Historical Resources within the Department of State also manages a few historical and archaeological sites around the state, and DEP’s Office of Greenways and Trails manages the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area.

The purpose for which a project is purchased is identified as part of the project evaluation process, and the manager is confirmed by the Governor and Cabinet when the acquisition is approved.   After receiving a lease from DEP’s Bureau of Public Land Administration, the land manager has one year to develop a management plan for a new management unit or an amendment to the management plan of an existing unit.  The management planning process involves holding the public meetings in which citizens living near the park, forest, preserve, reserve or wildlife area are given the opportunity to participate in deciding how a parcel will be managed. 

The management plans themselves identify in much greater detail the natural resources on the site, outline the management needs of the site and how those needs will be addressed, provide site plans for any proposed development (cabins, camping areas, ranger residences, trails, roads, bathhouses, etc.) and provide an estimate of the amount of funding and personnel that will be needed for optimal management of the site.   Upon completion, the management plan must be submitted to an approved by the Acquisition and Restoration Council, who ensure that the sensitive natural resources on the property will be protected.

Land Management Review Team

As part of the ongoing process to provide accountability to the public for proper management of state-owned conservation lands, the 1997 Florida Legislature added a new process to inspect parks, forests, wildlife areas and buffer preserves to ensure that they are being managed appropriately in accordance with their acquisition purposes and management plans.  The Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for establishing regional Land Management Review Teams to inspect and evaluate management of units of our state-owned conservation lands inventory.   The review teams consist of an individual from the county or local community  in which the parcel or project is located and who is selected by the county commission in the county which is most affected by the acquisition; individuals from the Division of Recreation and Parks, the Division of Forestry, and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; an individual from DEP’s district regulatory office in which the parcel is located; a private land manager, a member of the local soil and water conservation district board of supervisors; and a member of a conservation organization.

The review teams are required to visit and report on all of our management units great than 1000 acres in size every five years and may also inspect smaller units as time permits.   We currently have approximately 485 State Parks, State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, State Buffer Preserves, and other environmental and cultural management units in Florida (including several jointly owned with local government, water management district, and other partners), of which 148 are greater than 1000 acres in size.   All 148 of these have been inspected at least once, and we are in the process of visiting all of them a second time.   We have also inspected approximately 40 of the smaller units.

The Department of Environmental Protection compiles the results of the site inspections into an annual report for the Governor and Cabinet.  Prior to being presented to the Cabinet in October, DEP staff also makes a presentation at a public meeting of the Acquisition and Restoration Council.  Members of the general public have an opportunity to comment on Land Management Review Team findings at both the ARC and Cabinet meetings.

Management Funding

Funding for land management prior to Preservation 2000 was historically from a hodge-podge of individual trust funds (State Park Trust Fund, Division of Forestry’s Incidental Trust Fund, State Game Trust Fund, etc.), unpredictable general revenue appropriations to individual managing agencies and various other state and federal funds.   We were often criticized, perhaps fairly, for purchasing more land than we were able to manage.  Certainly management needs exceeded the available funding.   It was also difficult for managing agencies to begin to take care of newly-acquired lands and open them to the public because they could not get management money until the next time the legislature was in session.

Management funding became more timely and more stable under Preservation 2000 with a system that continues today.   First, with the majority of acquisition funds now coming either from the sale of bonds or directly from general revenue, the old CARL Trust Fund began to be used as a source of funding for land management.  Bond funds cannot be used for land management.   The old mixture of trust funds and other assorted funds still exists, but there is now a more reliable recurring source of revenue for land management.

The management funds are distributed among managing agencies in accordance with the number of acres they manage, weighted by the intensity of management required by some sites. In particular, the division of Recreation and Parks receives three times the amount per acres for managing state parks, which typically require more infrastructure and facilities development, more personnel, and more active supervision of visitors.  At the beginning of each fiscal year (July 1 of each year), 90 percent of available long-term management funds are distributed among the managing agencies for ongoing management of their lands.  Ten percent is held in reserve for managing historical resources and for any special management needs.   any funds from this reserve that are not spent by April 1 of each year are distributed among all managing agencies based on the weighted formula used at the beginning of the fiscal year.

We have also instituted a procedure for allocating interim management funds to land management agencies as soon as they execute their lease from the Division of State Palnds.  these interim management funds allow the managing agencies to begin taking care of their lands as soon as they receive them in their system rather than having to wait until the lands are included in the next round of long-term management fund allocation.  Immediate needs typically include fencing and various activities necessary to prepare a site to accept visitors.

There are still insufficient management funds for ideal management of all of our conservation lands, as outlined in the long-term plans for site development and management in individual land management plans, but was have significantly improved management funding since enacting the Preservation 2000 Act.  Although funding shortages are stillthe primary reason that our parks, forests, wildlife areas and buffer preserves are not managed to their full potential, all of our conservation lands are being adequately managed in conformance with the reasons for which we bought them, and all are open to the public.

Gopher Tortoise, Tate’s Hell State Forest


The gopher tortoise is on the threatened list and both the turtle and its burrow are protected by the state. (For regulation and penalties for destroying of burrows see Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website, Wildlife and Habitat Category.) Three hundred and fifty (350) species of animals depend on the burrows of the gopher tortoise. Because of this, the tortoise is considered a keystone species. They prefer upland forests, much more common in Blackwater River State Forest than Tate’s Hell.


This is also available on http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/AcqHistory.htm  Authors are James A. Farr and O. Greg Brock, Florida Division of State Lands.

The actual acquisition process occurs in several discrete steps spelled out in detail in Chapter 259, Florida Statues, and by administrative rule.

After a project is approved by the Governor and Cabinet, and if it is deemed to be sufficiently important for acquisition to begin on at least one of the ownerships within the project, it is given to our Bureau of Survey and Mapping for title research and preparation of an appraisal map.  The appraisal map is not a survey, but rather is based on plats, aerial phointerpretation and other information available from public records.  It typically delineates wetland and upland acreages, known easements on the property, and any other features that might affect the value of the land.

The complete appraisal map is then given to the Bureau of Appraisal.   Appraisals are conducted by private-sector professionally-licensed property appraisers under contract to the state.  For parcels whose value is estimated to be $1,000,000 or less, one appraiser is used.   For parcels values above $1,000,000, two independent appraisers are used.  Their appraisals are then submitted to a third review appraiser, also under contract to the state, who evaluated the work to ensure compliance with statutory and rule requirements and to make a professional judgment as to suitability of comparable sales and other factors.  The review appraiser then submits the finished report to the Bureau.  If the higher of two appraisals exceeds the lower by more than 20 percent, a third appraiser may be asked to provide another opinion.   The higher of the two appraisals or the higher of the two closest appraisals in the event of a third appraisal becomes the maximum price that we are allowed to pay for the property unless a majority of the Governor and Cabinet votes to exceed that maximum.   Under Florida law, the results of the appraisals and the establishment of the maximum price we can pay are not revealed to the potential seller until two weeks prior to the meeting of the Governor and Cabinet at which approval of the purchase will be considered.

The appraisal results are given to an acquisition agent in our Bureau of Land Acquisition.  The agent then develops a negotiation strategy that must be approved by management. This strategy spells out the opening offer and the maximum that we will offer.  The Governor and Cabinet typically do not like to pay the full appraisal value of property, so the Bureau must balance the importance of the resources we wish to protect with the insistence by our elected officials that we negotiate a good deal for the State.  Each step in the negotiation itself (initial offer, counteroffers and final agreed upon price) is done in writing.   When the negotiations are complete, the acquisition agent, with our legal staff, prepares a contract for sale that must be agreed to by both parties.

We must emphasize that Florida’s acquisition program depend on willing sellers.  Although we have the statutory authority to use the power of eminent domain to acquire conservation land under certain circumstances, we have only done so very rarely, and then very reluctantly.   In the vast majority of cases, if an owner is unwilling to sell his or her land, we will not pursue it.

If the final negotiated purchase price exceeds $250,000, the acquisition must be approved by the Governor and Cabinet at one of their biweekly public meetings.   The Cabinet and their staff receive agenda packages with details of the property being acquired, assignment of a manger, negotiation steps, final price, and the results of the appraisals.  It is at this time that the maximum price the state could pay is revealed publicly.

When the Cabinet approves the purchase, the acquisition package then goes to our closing agents.  It is at this time that a final survey is done, any title problems are resolved, and an environmental site assessment is performed to identify and remove any potential hazardous substances on site.   The survey determines the final acreage, and the purchase price is adjusted to reflect deviation from the acreage estimated from the original appraisal map.  Finally, the state pays the landowner and takes title to the property.

The final step in the acquisition process is to lease the property to the designed manager of the property.  This is done by the Bureau of Public Land Administration, which oversees all property the state owns, including conservation lands, submerged lands, and any other land owned by the state for other purposes (schools, prisons, state office buildings, etc.)

Project Evaluation and Selection – part V of 9

This can be viewed also on 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.

We will now explain the process by which lands are chosen for purchase under the Florida Forever Program and how the lands are actually purchased.   This process has remained basically unchanged since the inception of the CARL program in 1979, although there have been a few substantive changes that we will explain below.   We will also introduce our land management planning process.

From 1979 – 1990, the CARL program had one selection cycle per year.   We increased this to twice per year under Florida Forever.  Anyone may submit an application to ARC to have a project considered for acquisition.   We have routinely received applications from private landowners, real estate agents and other representatives, state and federal agencies, local governments water management districts and conservation groups.   The application form and various support materials are available online at http://www.floridaforever.org.  it is very important to note that our program depends on landowners who are willing to have their property considered for purchase by the state.   Prior to an application being submitted, all landowners must be contacted by the applicant, and an owner’s property must be removed from a project boundary if the owner requests it.

After the application deadlines of January 1 and July 1 of each year, all submittals are distributed to the nine ARC members and to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI).   FNAI is our state natural heritage program, part of a nationwide Heritage Network that gathers and organizes information relating to the biodiversity of each state (Stein et al., 2000).  FNAI provides initial resource information from their databases for each of the new projects.  Based on the application materials, FNAI data, and, very importantly, a public hearing with input from citizens, environmental groups, project sponsors and others, ARC members perform an initial evaluation of each new project.  It a minimum of five members vote in a public meeting to move the project forward, it then moves to a more detailed evaluation.

The Florida Natural Areas Inventory has developed an iterative modeling tool called F-TRAC (Florida Forever Tool for Efficient Resource Acquisition and Conservation) for identifying projects that contribute the most toward satisfying our conservation needs (Oetting et al., 2006).  The model incorporates species, natural communities, high quality watersheds, wetlands and sustainable forestry.  It is run every six months in conjunction with each new application cycle and takes into account land currently in public ownership, land in existing projects, and lands proposed for acquisition.  Because it evaluates unprotected land in relation to land that we already own, the relative importance of unbought parcels may change as new land is purchased and resources that were underrepresented in our inventory become better protected through public ownership.

The Florida Natural Areas Inventory plays a critical role in the next steps of project development.  After a project passes the initial vote, FNAI staff recommend a project Resource Planning Boundary that may vary from the boundaries proposed in the initial application.   Property may be added to the Resource Planning Boundary if there are tracts with significant natural resources adjacent to the original proposal or if it makes sense to include entire ownerships when only partial ownerships were proposed.  They may also delete areas with known disturbances of development or even recommend that only a part of an ownership be pursued.

After the Resource Planning Boundaries are determined, FNAI and agency staff perform site visits and write a detailed evaluation of the project.  The project evaluations contain descriptions of the vegetative communities, listed species found on the property, description of groundwater and surface water resources, historical and archaeological resources, recreation potential, a proposed management concept and suggested managing agency, and recommendations regarding phasing and whether all or part of the project would be appropriate for a conservation easement or should be bought outright.

The completed project evaluations are distributed to the ARC members, who then hold a second public hearing on the projects before a second vote to approve the projects to an acquisition list.   Those projects that receive at least five affirmative votes are then voted onto either an “A” or “B” list.  “A” list projects are those considered most important for acquisition and may be pursued by the acquisition staff of the DEP Division of State Lands.  “B” list projects are a lower priority and may only be worked on if the state can pay no more than 50% of appraised value.  To be purchased, these projects typically require matching funds from a local government or water management district partner.   The cost to purchase all of the projects on our acquisition lists has always substantially exceeded our acquisition budget, so some sort of prioritization is essential.

The separation of projects into two list, basically high and low priority, is a new phenomenon under Florida Forever.  Under the CARL program, from its inception through the end of Preservation 2000, we ranked projects from highest to lowest priority and developed acquisition work plans based on the relative ranking of individual projects.  There was much more certainty about which projects would be worked on inn any given fiscal year, but less of an opportunity to respond to changes in landowner willingness to sell, imminent threat of development, and other contingencies unforeseen at the time of ranking.   Each method has its advantages.  With a formal ranking of the projects from highest to lowest priority, the Council had more of a direct input into acquisition priorities.  By lumping projects into just two groups, within which all projects are equal, acquisition priorities are determined to a much greater extent by staff of the Division of State Lands.  Ranking reduces the ability to exert political or interest-group influence on which projects are pursued.

We should note that a project may range from a tiny site of less than ten acres (e.g. to protect a historical site like the Key West Customs House or a localized natural resource like a Southeastern Bat maternity cave) to one more than 200,000 acres (e.g. the Tate’s Hell Swamp in Franklin County).  They may have one or a few landowners, as is the usual case, to more than 20,000 owners, as was the case in our Save Our Everglades project, which included thousands of individual platted lots in the Southern Golden Gate Estates.  Projects are not necessarily designed to be completed in a single year, and some larger projects may take more than two decades to complete (e.g. a large landscape project in the Wekiva River  basin in Orange, Seminole and Lake counties, or the Save Our Everglades projects).  We are not always successful in negotiating purchases of lands that we consider important, but by maintaining essential parcels on our acquisition list, we are able to respond if an owner’s willingness to sell changes or the ownership itself changes.  If a parcel within a project is lost to development, we can reevaluate out priorities within a project to determine if the project is still worth pursuing or if priorities within the project need to be adjusted.

The final step in creating the acquisition lists is approval of the final “A” and “B” groupings by our Governor and Cabinet.  As with the CARL program, the Cabinet may approve or reject the list or remove individual projects, but it may not remove projects from “A” to “B” or vice versa.  The lists are submitted in the form of an Annual Report and Interim Report, both of which include project summaries, purposes of acquisition, management concepts, and other pertinent information.   By approving the report, the Governor and Cabinet approve both the groupings of projects into two list as well as the rationale for their inclusion as acquisition projects and the determination of how they will be managed. 

FLORIDA FOREVER — 2000 TO PRESENT Part IV of 9 parts

Preservation 2000 was a phenomenal success.  Florida was able to preserve almost two million acres of land for conservation and resource-based recreation through the many programs it funded.  We made substantial headway in protecting the state’s natural heritage for the future, but it was clear that many plant and animal species and several different natural vegetative communities would still be lost if we did not devote more resources to their protection.   There had already been talk among the environmental groups of a successor to Preservation 2000, but it became clear in 1998 that the general public also supported continued funding for land acquisition.

The 1968 Florida Constitution required that a Constitution Revision Commission meet in 1978 and again in 1998 to evaluated the Constitution and suggest revisions.  The 1998 Commission proposed several substantial changes to our Constitution that would be put before the voters in November, 1998.  The one that is relevant to this discussion was Amendment 5, which, among other things, extended indefinitely the state’s ability to sell bonds to finance environmental land acquistion and created a more difficult test for the disposal of land purchased for conservation purposes, thereby attempting to ensure that what is bought for conservation, stays in conservation.   Even though Florida was becoming increasingly conservative and “property rights” was a frequent topic of discussion, 72 percent of Florida’s electorate voted to approve Amendment 5.  It was clear that the citizens of Florida were fully behind continued protection of our dwindling natural resources.

The groundwork for a successor program began under Governor Lawton Chiles, and in 1999, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Forever Act, with the support of Governor Jeb Bush.   Florida Forever resulted in a major revision and replacement of the Save our Rivers and CARL Programs, which we now call the State and Water Management District Florida Forever Programs, respectively, while continuing funding to the Florida Communities Trust, the three Inholdings and Additions programs, and the Greenways and Trails.   As did its predecessor, Florida Forever authorizes the sale of up to $300 million in bonds for ten years, but distributed differently than under Preservation 2000.  The Florida Forever Program that replaced CARL receives 35 percent, another 35 percent is divided among the five water management district programs, Florida Communities Turst receives 22 percent, each Inholdings and Additions program receives 1.5 percent, as does Greenways and Trails.   The final 2 percent goes to the Florida Recreational Development Assistance Program to fund development of recreational facilities.

The Florida Forever Act made several changes.  There is a greater focus on urban and community parks, as illustrated by the increase in funding to Florida Communities Trust.  There is a greater emphasis on protecting water resources and water supply, and there is a new emphasis on purchasing conservation easements on lands that do not necessarily need to be held in fee title by the state.   Unlike Preservation 2000, Florida Forever allows bond funds to be used for facilities development, for ecological restoration and invasive exotic plant removal, and for conducting species inventories and land management planning.  Finally, the Florida Forever Act provides for land management funding through the CARL and SOR trust funds.

The Florida Forever Act sets out several specific goals to guide land acquisition throughout the state through its several programs.  They include coordination and completion of project unfinished under previous programs, emphasis on protecting Florida’s biodiversity and protecting, restoring and maintaining natural ecological functions.  It also calls for ensuring that the state has sufficient quantities of groundwater.   There is continued recognition of the need to provide recreation and educational opportunities for citizens and tourists, to protect archaeological and historic sites and to provide forest land for sustainable management.   Finally, there is a goal to provide more urban open spaces.

Unlike earlier statutes governing environmental land acquisition in Florida, the Florida Forever Act provides 34 performance measures under its eight goals.  Three deal with acquisition coordination and completion, six are concerned with protecting biodiversity, eleven cover ecological restoration and ecosystem protection,  three are concerned with quantities of water, three with public recreation, two with archaeological and historical resources, four with sustainable forestry, and two with urban open spaces.   We are now required to identify priority areas for satisfying these goals and measures and determine the number of acres we have acquired that fulfill each measure.  There is thus much more legislative guidance directing land acquisition.

The Florida Forever Act also replaced the old Land Acquisition and Management Advisory Council (LAMAC) with a new nine-member Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC).  This new Council has the heads of the five agencies that were on the LAMAC (minus the double representation of the Department of Environmental Protection) plus four private citizens with an environmental background appointed by the Governor.

PRESERVATION 2000 (P-2000) – 1991-2000 Part III of 9

This is from http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/AcqHistory.htm.  Authors are James A. Farr and O Greg Brock, Florida Division of State Lands

In 1989, Governor Bob Martinez appointed a Commission on the Future of Florida’s Environment to examine threats to Florida’s environmental health and suggest portential solutions.   The Commission realized that Florida’s then-current pace of acquiring conservation lands was not occurring fast enough to keep up with our rapid population increase and concomitant development pressure.   There were already more projects on state and regional acquisition priority lists than could be purchased under existing funding levels, and there were many more areas of the state with significant natural communities and listed species that had not yet been proposed for acquisition.  Commission staff estimated that there was an unmet acquisition need of more than $5 billion.   The Commission also recognized that land prices were escalating faster than the rate of inflation and that it would be advantageous to sell long-term bonds to fund land acquisition rather than to rely on the year-to-year collection of documentary stamp taxes.   They recommended that the state begin a much more aggressive program of land acquisition to protect more of the state’s natural environment before it was lost to development.

With the support of the Governor, the Florida Legislature responded in 1990, with passage of the landmark Preservation 2000 Act.   This act anticipated the sale of $3 billion in bonds over a 10-year period, $300 million per year, from 1991-2000.   The funds were to be given to the CARL program (50%), the Save Our Rivers program of the five water management districts (30 percent), a newly-created Florida Communities Trust aimed at helped local governments (10 percent), 2.9 percent each to the Division of Recreation and Parks, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Commission, and the Division of Forestry to purchase inholdings and additions to State Parks, Wildlife Management Areas and State Forests, respectively, and finally 1.3 percent for recreational trails.   The CARL and SOR programs continued to operate essentially as they had in the past, only with a substantially larger budget.  The Rails to Trails Program and the three Inholdings and Additions Program established their own internal agency procedures for selecting lands to be purchased.   The Florida Communities trust, however, was an entirely new program that needs a bit of explanation.

Florida Communities Trust (FCT)

In 1985, the Florida Legislature enacted a significant Growth Management Act that required all local governments in Florida (counties and incorporated municipalities) to prepare a detailed Comprehensive Plan, backed by extensive data and analysis, with goals, objectives and policies to guide development, provide infrastructure, protect natural resources, and provide resource-based recreation for their citizens.   The statewide oversight and approval of these comprehensive plans is a function of the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

The Florida Communities Trust (FCT) was actually established in 1989, but it did not receive funding until passage of the Preservation 2000 Act.   The program is housed in the Department of Community Affirs and was designed to assist local governments in implementing the conservation, recreation and open space, and coastal elements of their comprehensive plans.  Although the enabling legislation contemplates a broader function, funds from P-2000 were restricted to acquisition of lands in furtherance of outdoor, recreation and conservation, and not other activities related to local government assistance not directly related to land acquisition.

FCT has a governing board consisting of the Secretaries of the Department of Community Affairs and the Department of Environmental Protection, plus four members appointed by the Governor.   Application for projects may come only from local governments or non-profit organizations, and they are scored using a numerical scoring system that evaluates not only the quality of the natural resources on sites, but also how well the projects satisfy requirements of the local governments’ comprehensive plans.  Local governments are expected to provide matching funds for land acquisition, although smaller governments are exempt from this requirement.  Title to lands purchased through FCT is held by the local government with a reverter clause in the deed that gives title to the state if the local government does not manage the land for the purpose for which it was acquired.