Credit: Ronald Broome,

We need your help to make sure our publicly-owned conservation lands are protected.

The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has initiated a process to assess the conservation lands that it owns to determine if some properties should be sold.

Draft recommendations currently include:

  • Retaining 571,519 acres, which represents 93 percent of District-owned lands.
  • Donating 24,819 acres to local governments and retaining conservation easements on those lands.
  • Selling 9,142 acres and retaining easements to protect the lands' conservation values.
  • Selling 4,687 acres of lower conservation value lands, such as a maintenance compound, nursery or property that is no longer needed for conservation or projects.
  • Converting 7,426 acres to alternative uses, such as leases allowing for forestry activities

Meetings to present the draft recommendations to the public will begin later this month. The meetings will be held:

  • 6 p.m., Oct. 23, City of Palm Bay Council Chambers, 120 Malabar Road S.E., Palm Bay
  • 6 p.m., Oct. 25, District headquarters, 4049 Reid St., Palatka 
  • 6 p.m., Oct. 30, Gainesville City Commission Chambers, 200 E. University Ave., Gainesville
  • 6 p.m., Nov. 7, Volusia County Council Chambers, 123 W. Indiana Ave, DeLand
  • 6 p.m., Nov. 14, St. Johns County Auditorium, 500 San Sebastian View, St. Augustine
  • 6 p.m., Nov. 15, City of Winter Garden Commission Chambers, 300 W. Plant St., Winter Garden

Click here for information about the upcoming meetings, draft recommendations, and the online comment form.

We are extremely concerned about the potential loss of important conservation lands that help protect our river and the impacts this could have on the overall health and water quality of the St. Johns River.

Conservation lands are critical to the ecological health of the St. Johns, but they also perform fundamental life-supporting services upon we depend.  Unfortunately, we often take for granted the benefits, or ecosystem services, that nature provides to us such as clean water, habitat for fisheries, timber, flood control, and pollination of native and agricultural plants. We are either unable to replicate many of these essential ecosystem services, or we simply can’t provide them as effectively and efficiently as natural systems can.

With the serious water quality problems our river is currently facing, we can’t afford to take a step back by eliminating the ecological benefits that these conservation lands may provide. A net loss in ecosystem services would only further diminish the overall health of the St. Johns River watershed. Any evaluation should take a holistic approach that assesses the overall impacts to the entire watershed, fully accounting for the value and all the benefits provided by our conservation lands.

Conservation Lands provide –

  • Flood control
  • Water storage and treatment
  • Essential habitat for plants, animals, and fisheries
  • Wildlife corridors
  • Aquifer recharge
  • Stormwater management
  • Timber production
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Air quality benefits
  • Erosion control
  • Recreation
  • Ecotourism opportunities

Submit comments on the SJRWMD website.  Let them know that you support the protection and retention of our conservation lands.

Recently, St. Johns Riverkeeper and a coalition of Northeast Florida's leading conservation organizations joined together to raise awareness about the importance of our publicly-owned conservation lands and to encourage the community to explore, volunteer and advocate for the protection of these vital natural resources.

The groups include St. Johns Riverkeeper, North Florida Land Trust, Audubon Florida, Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group, Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute, Timucuan Trail Parks Foundation, and St. Johns River Alliance.

“We are extremely concerned about the potential loss of important conservation lands that are vital to the water quality and the overall health of the St. Johns,” said Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper. “As a result, we are closely monitoring this process and urge citizens to get involved to ensure that our publicly-owned lands remain in conservation, continuing to benefit us and our river.”

Read the press release issued by the groups.