Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet agreed Tuesday to spend $4 million on a massive conservation easement in tiny Dixie County.
State officials, environmentalists and the landowner say the deal is good for everybody, including taxpayers.
It allows Lyme Timber Company to continue harvesting trees on more than 8,000 acres in exchange for not cashing in with houses, hotels and strip malls. Company managing director Tim Morrow says the deal preserves a way of life.
“The hunting culture is strong there. This land will remain available for those local hunt clubs to continue their activities. In addition, that hunting activity brings economic activity as those folks come in every fall to pursue their hunting.”
Audubon of Florida lobbyist Charles Lee says the property couldn’t be a more tempting target for bulldozers or a better habitat for wildlife. Iconic species like the Florida black bear and American bald eagle call it home.
“It is one of the biggest conservation easements you’ve done in a while and we think it’s going to be important for future generations.”
Deborah Keller of The Nature Conservancy says the deal is part of a much larger effort.
She says the Lyme property will help the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area continue buffering 70 miles of coastline from development.
“This project is a connection to that project. It helps us create a continuous corridor of conservation area, and more importantly, working lands for this area. Ninety percent of Dixie County’s economy is based on the timber industry.”
Scott and the Cabinet approved the deal unanimously.