Florida Forever is the state land acquisition program and is run by the Division of State Lands (DSL). The program purchases properties with high conservation value, utilizing both fee-simple and less-than-fee acquisition strategies (conservation easements). DSL has a history of partnering with water management districts and county governments on conservation land acquisition.
The Florida Forever program has specific guidelines 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 received 77 Million in FY 2018-19 for projects on the Florida Forever list.
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 2018-2019 is 5.8 Million. RFLPP has been successfully leveraging their dollars with partnership funding from the NRCS ALE 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:www.FreshFromFlorida.com
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.
The Wetland Reserve Easement Program (WRE) 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 can be more restrictive than other easements; NRCS has the right to restrict grazing rights for restoration purposes. NRCS has not restricted grazing rights in Florida as part of the WRE program, and they indicate it is highly unlikely they ever will, as cattle are an important management tool in Florida. Landowners also have the option to secure grazing rights on a WRE in perpetuity for a reduced rate. 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)
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. NRCS does not purchase these easements, rather they contribute to the partner that is acquiring the easement. The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) under the Florida Forest Service has been successfully partnering with the NRCS ALE program, enabling them to leverage their dollars; Water Management Districts and County Land Conservation Programs are also pursuing funding partnerships with the ALE program. In FY 2017 NRCS was allocated 9 Million
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FWS 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 have had very active land acquisition programs in the past, although funding has fallen o 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.