Environment
4:00 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Florida Defends Land Sales; Sites In The Keys Removed From List

Numerous parcels within the Florida Keys have been removed from the list of state-owned properties under consideration for a massive sale to help fund future land-conservation efforts.

Credit Randy Grau / myfwc.com

The announcement Thursday from the state Department of Environmental Protection came as Susan Grandin, director of the Division of State Lands, defended the overall proposal to sell targeted acres of conservation lands to raise money for the purchase of more critical sites.

She said many of the sites that could be sold are "not the most pristine" and were often included in larger land-conservation efforts.

"Sometimes in order to get the critical land you need … you have to buy a portion of land that is not as high value," Grandin said. "So extra acres were typically thrown in by land owners, sometimes they presented it as an all or nothing deal."

The 17 small parcels around Plantation Key within the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area, most abutting U.S. 1, were removed due to environmental and growth-management reasons that had been pointed out by officials from Monroe County, Grandin said.

In the past month, more than 1,000 acres have been removed from the list. Many of those acres were removed because of title restrictions that prohibit any sale, mapping errors, various legal reasons, and as in the case of land within Cayo Costa State Park in Lee County, the land has eroded into the Gulf of Mexico since it was purchased in 1994, Grandin said.

Because of the process required to approve the list, the sale of any land isn't expected to occur until the middle of next year.

The state Acquisition and Restoration Council, which makes recommendations about conservation issues, will receive on update Friday on the list. 

The Legislature approved the state land-sale program with the hope of raising $50 million.

Grandin said it is unknown how much the state will generate from the parcels that remain under consideration and that no estimate may be made until the final list is set.

The money from any sale will be combined with $20 million that lawmakers included in the budget for the purchase of land to protect springs, water quality, water quantity or to serve as buffers for military bases.

Groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation continue to have questions about sites on the list.

The removed parcels from the Keys totaled 15.2 acres, leaving 4,235 acres still up for potential sale at 47 sites across the state.

Most of the sites are less than 10 acres.

The largest parcels that remain include 148 acres along the 29.2-mile General James A. Van Fleet State Trail in Lake County, 2,628 acres from four sections of the 9,369-acre Hilochee Wildlife Management Area in Polk County, and 700 acres of the Jones/Hungryland Wildlife and Environmental Area west of Jupiter along the Palm Beach-Martin County line.