Land Conservation

Florida Conservation Group works to conserve natural and agricultural lands; this includes promoting and implementing land protection projects, and private landowner conservation incentives.

 


 

Florida Forest Service: Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP)
The RFLPP is an agricultural easement program run by the Florida Forest Service; it is designed to protect important agricultural lands through the acquisition of permanent land conservation easements.  The purpose of the program is to protect working landscapes, and easements are not restrictive.  The program is very popular among landowners who would like to continue their agricultural operations.  

The application process is 6 months in duration.  Once accepted properties are placed into one of three ‘tiers’; properties in Tier 1 are the most likely to receive funding.  Funding for the program has been increasing in recent years due to its success.  Funding for FY 2017-2018 is 10 Million.  RFLPP has been successfully leveraging their dollars with partnership funding from the NRCS ALE program.

Contact Jennifer Reed at Jennifer.Reed@FreshFromFlorida.com  for more information. For additional information, including maps and the 2016-tiered list, please see: http://www.FreshFromFlorida.com/RFLPP

Note on Appraisals: “In valuing conservation easements, most agencies begin with a current fee simple value of the lands and then consider what rights the land owner is willing to convey.  Generally, the landowner gives up development rights, the right to subdivide the lands, and maybe some environmental set asides.  The appraisers determine a value for the rights to be conveyed and make their adjustments.  The result is the value of your easement.  Information from the state of Florida indicates that agriculture conservation easements, on the average, are valued at about 50% of fee value.”  John Browne, RFLPP.

 

Department of Environmental Protection-Division of State Lands: Florida Forever
Florida Forever is the state land acquisition program and is run by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  The program purchases properties with high conservation value, utilizing both fee-simple and less-than-fee acquisition strategies (conservation easements).  DEP has a history of partnering with water management districts and county governments on conservation land acquisition.

The Florida Forever program has a fairly strict protocol for acceptance including an application process that is 6 months in duration.  Once accepted into the program applications are ranked and placed into categories.  

Florida Forever and its predecessor programs have been funded at $300 million annually since 1990; in 2008 this dropped dramatically with the economic recession.  Florida Forever is not funded for FY 2018.

Contact Paula Allen at Paula.L.Allen@dep.state.fl.us for more information.  
Please see http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/fl_forever.htm for information on the Florida Forever Program.

 

Florida Forest Service: The Forest Legacy Program
The Forest Legacy Program aims to protect and conserve forests that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses.  The program is led by the Florida Forest Service, however the U.S. Forest Service makes the final selections and distributes the funds.  Florida may submit multiple projects, but the U.S. Forest Service Regional Office can submit no more than 3 projects from the state to the national office for consideration each year; the maximum funding is $10 million per year per state (maximum funding for one project is $7 million).  The program may partner with other state and county government entities to leverage funding.

The Florida Forest Service places an emphasis on purchasing conservation easements, although past projects to date have been fee-simple.  The Florida program focuses on conservation easements to ensure that forests in the state remain economically viable.  

Florida’s Forest Legacy Area map identifies which portions of the state are eligible for protection under the Forest Legacy program.  Please see this map for an idea of where there are current Forest Legacy Areas: http://www.FreshFromFlorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/Our-Forests/Land-Planning-and-Administration-Section/Florida-Forest-Legacy-Program/Florida-Forest-Legacy-Areas-Map

Catherine Ingram is the contact person for the Forest Legacy Program: Catherine.Ingram@FreshFromFlorida.com 
For additional information on the Legacy program, please see
http://www.FreshFromFlorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/Our-Forests/Land-Planning-and-Administration-Section/Florida-Forest-Legacy-Program

 

NRCS: The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
The ACEP provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits. Under the Agricultural Land Easements component, NRCS helps Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations protect working agricultural lands and limit non-agricultural uses of the land. Under the Wetlands Reserve Easements component, NRCS helps to restore, protect and enhance enrolled wetlands. NRCS easement programs are very popular in Florida and well-funded.  

Contact Roney Gutierrez Roney.Gutierrez@fl.usda.gov for information on the ACEP.

NRCS ACEP: Wetland Reserve Easement
The Wetland Reserve Easement Program under the NRCS ACEP is an easement program that purchases conservation easements on degraded or former wetlands in need of restoration. NRCS prioritizes wetlands that have been converted into other agricultural uses. NRCS will prioritize applications based on the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. WRE’s are more restrictive than other easements. NRCS has the right to restrict grazing rights for restoration purposes. NRCS has not done this and they say it is highly unlikely they ever will, as cattle are an important management tool in Florida. WRE prices are set by the Geographic Area Cap Rate (GARC); they are not subject to appraisal. WRE’s tend to have a higher dollar value than other easements, due to their restrictive nature. WRE’s are stand-alone easements; NRCS doesn’t partner with other entities to purchase these easements.  

In FY 2017 NRCS was allocated 33 Million (some carryover from 2016)

Contact Crenel Francis Crenel.francis@fl.usda.gov for more information. For additional information, please see: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/fl/programs/easements/.

NRCS- Agricultural Conservation Land Easement Program: Agricultural Land Easements (ALE)
The ALE is a partnership program and is geared for working landscapes. NRCS provides financial assistance to eligible partners for purchasing Agricultural Land Easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation values of eligible land. Eligible partners include Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs. The ALE program will provide up to 50% match for working agricultural lands and 75% where there are grasslands of special significance. The ALE program does prioritize specific soils; these areas are termed Farmland of Unique Importance. Lands that have farmland of unique importance will receive priority ranking for a 50% match from NRCS. NRCS does not purchase these easements, rather they contribute to the partner that is acquiring the easement. This is a relatively new program so we have not had a long history of NRCS partnering with local governments yet. However, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) under the Florida Forest Service has been successfully partnering with the NRCS ALE program on several easements.

In FY 2017 NRCS was allocated 6.3 Million

Contact Nina Bhattacharyya nina.bhattacharyya@fl.usda.gov for more information. For more information please see http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/fl/programs/easements/.

 

Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation Easements within the EHNWR boundary
FWC is currently acquiring property within the boundary of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge Conservation Area. They have identified 100,000 acres as appropriate for less-than-fee acquisition and 50,000 acres for fee-simple acquisition. Approximately 17 million has been appropriated to date. FWS is working in partnership with other easement and acquisition programs to leverage these dollars. Funding for FY 2017: 2.5 Million.
Contact: William Miller William_g_miller@fws.gov for more information.

 

Florida Water Management Districts
Florida Water Management Districts have had very active land acquisition programs in the past, although funding has fallen off in recent years. Water Management Districts have a long history of partnering with county governments and DEP in fee simple and less-than-fee acquisitions.
Northwest: http://www.nwfwmd.state.fl.us/lands/land-acquisition/
Southwest: https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/
South Florida: http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/land%20acquisition
St Johns: http://floridaswater.com/landacquisition/
Suwannee: http://www.mysuwanneeriver.com/index.aspx?NID=27

 

Other Relevant Incentive Programs

Many landowners may prefer to engage in incentive programs that don’t involve selling their land or conservation easements. The below programs described below are examples of what can be utilized to achieve our conservation dollars, in the event that fee simple acquisition or conservation easements aren’t feasible or desired. Other incentive programs, like management cost share programs, are available under Florida Department of Agriculture, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Please see our resources page for links to programs.

Conservation and Wetland Mitigation Banking
Banking can be a very effective conservation tool, but the permitting process is often long and complex. Outside financing/investment groups are often utilized in conservation and wetland mitigation banking.  Market conditions also dictate if a bank is appropriate or not. Many areas are ideal for banking, but the market may not exist, or it may already be saturated. Many of the priority areas identified in the LCD are appropriate for banking from an ecological perspective.

Species Conservation Banking
Species conservation banks are permanently protected lands that contain important species habitat administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). These lands are conserved and permanently managed for species that are federally listed as endangered, threatened, candidates for listing as endangered or threatened, or are otherwise species-at-risk. Conservation banks function to offset adverse impacts that occurred elsewhere to these species, sometimes referred to as off-site mitigation. In exchange for permanently protecting the land and managing it for these species, the FWS approves a specified number of habitat or species credits that bank owners may sell.
In Florida the most common conservation banks are for the following listed species: Florida scrub-jay, the blue-tailed mole skink and the sand skink. Panther banks are also a tool utilized south of the Caloosahatchee River. Often conservation banks are funded by an investment group (banker); they fund the permitting and fees associated with the bank. The landowner often receives a portion of the credit sales. All banks must be placed under a conservation easement in order to be permitted. Lands already under easement will not be considered for a bank.

Wetland Mitigation Banking
Wetland mitigation banking is a practice in which an environmental enhancement and preservation project is conducted by a public agency or private entity (“banker”) to provide mitigation for wetland impacts within a defined region (mitigation service area). The bank is the site itself, and the currency sold by the banker to the entity impacting wetlands is referred to as a credit, which represents the wetland ecological value equivalent to the complete restoration of one acre. The number of potential credits permitted for the bank and the credit debits required for impact permits are determined by the permitting agencies. Mitigation banks are authorized by a State permit, issued by either a Water Management District or the Department of Environmental Protection, and by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Wetland bankers receive more credits for wetlands they restore versus preserve. Restorable wetlands will more likely receive approval by the regulatory entities.

South Florida Water Management District: Dispersed Water Storage
Since 2005 the South Florida Water Management District has been working with private landowners to store excess surface water on private lands. The Dispersed Water Management Program pays property owners to retain water on their land rather than drain it, accept and detain regional runoff, or both. Holding water on these lands is one tool to reduce the amount of water flowing into Lake Okeechobee and to restore both water quality and the timing of water flows in the Greater Everglades watershed. It also allows for groundwater recharge for increased water supply, water quality improvement, rehydration of drained systems, and potentially habitat restoration for wetland dependent species. The program funds efforts to restore wetland, floodplain, and watershed function and is becoming a more important part of Florida conservation efforts.

 

 

 

FGC Board
Chair David ‘Lefty’ Durando
Vice Chair Jim Strickland
Treasurer Bryan Archer
Technical Advisor Dr. Tom Hoctor

 

 

 

 

 

Our Commitment
Our work is in some of the only remaining large-scale landscapes in Florida. Our commitment to the conservation of natural and agricultural lands includes promoting and implementing land protection projects, private landowner incentives and engaging in science based conservation planning.

 

 

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florida conservation group

Florida Conservation Group is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
Our federal tax ID number is 47-1365766

Tel. 941.234.7201    info@floridaconserve.org    Nokomis, Florida 34275

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