Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, at Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Update! Click here to read comments submitted by St. Johns Riverkeeper expressing serious concerns about the reliability and need for this assessment process.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is currently reviewing the state’s inventory of State Park and conservation lands to identify possible “surplus” properties that could be sold.
The 2013 Legislature authorized as much as $50 million for new land purchases, funded by the sale of state-owned lands identified by the DEP as no longer needed for conservation purposes. The land assessment process is underway and has identified a number of important conservation lands for possible sale that were purchased by taxpayers under the highly-successful Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 programs.
The initial list of potential surplus lands included over 160 tracts that totaled 5,331 acres. In part due to intense public pressure, that list has since been reduced to 3,405 acres.
Unfortunately, the DEP is still considering numerous lands for surplus that clearly have conservation value. While a few small parcels may exist that do not provide significant conservation benefits, this process must not be conducted hastily or without objective analysis and intense scrutiny. We are concerned that the process to date has failed to accomplish these objectives based on the quality of some of the lands that remain on the list for potential sale. We are also concerned that the process does not allow enough time for a thorough evaluation of the conservation value of the properties under consideration. In addition, the assessement methodology and model being utilized have been called into question by numerous organizations and land conservation experts.
If you care about the future of our parks, conservation lands, and water resources, we encourage you take a close look at the list of properties proposed for sale and voice your concerns and objections. Send your comments to ARC_mailinglist@dep.state.fl.us.
Lands that are recommended by the state Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) for surplus would go to the Cabinet for approval once a buyer is found.
Also, contact Governor Rick Scott (email@example.com) and DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let them know that you value our state public lands and do not want any properties that benefit wildlife and our environment to be sold. Learn more about the land assessment process on the DEP website.