Fla. Scales Back 'Low Priority' Land Purchases After Environmentalist Backlash

Aug 16, 2013

St. Marks River preservation is one of the projects on a final state list headed to a Board of Trustees for approval for conservation purchase.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

A Florida land council has slashed its list of conservation lands recommended for state purchase after backlash from a nonprofit environmental group. A letter from the Nature Conservancy expressed concern the state could waste some of its limited conservation budget by buying low-priority lands.

Greg Kenecht with the Florida Nature Conservancy wrote the letter challenging the sudden addition of 33 land acquisitions to the list. He noted many properties slated for purchase were ranked as low priorities under the Florida Forever program, while several high-priority projects were left off.

“We’re very interested in land and land protection and recognizing and being considerate to the taxpayers’ dollars," he said in an interview.

At a meeting Thursday in Tallahassee, the land council reverted back to a previous, much shorter list of planned purchases.

Next week the state is expected to release another list—that one of lands it proposes to sell. This year’s state budget allows for conservation land purchases, but most of the money for them must come from selling other conservation land first.