Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet announced the approval of the acquisition of more than 1,275 acres to protect environmentally sensitive areas in Monroe and Washington counties.
The approval is the final step before land can be purchased for these two Florida Forever projects.
"This more than $4 million investment will protect our springs and environment to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy Florida's natural treasures," Scott said via a news release.
Florida Forever, which is the land conservation program that has purchased roughly 2.5 million Florida acres, along with the program it replaced, Preservation 2000. That program was the largest public land acquisition program of its kind in the United States at the time of its inception.
An 938.3-acre parcel in the Florida Keys Ecosystem Florida Forever project announced on Tuesday is the first acquisition by Scott and the Florida Cabinet.
The parcel, purchased for $3.6 million, will help protect the Outstanding Florida Waters of the Keys as well as the hardwood hammocks, plants, and animals living within the ecosystem. Among the animals being preserved are the North American crocodile, Lower Keys marsh rabbit, and Key deer. The parcel will also help protect recreational and commercial fisheries and will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The second parcel is 347.6 acres from Plum Creek Land Company and is located within the Florida's First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever project in Washington County.
Bought for $780,000, the parcel is adjacent to land owned by the Northwest Florida Water Management District, which will manage this new property and will conserve a spring-fed creek that contains 51 springs within a 25-mile reach of the creek itself.
The parcel will also protect the current public access for fishing, hunting, boating, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking.
"The purchase of these valuable conservation lands not only offers significant water-quality protection but also benefits birds and wildlife in the regions," Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said via Scott's news release. "Audubon applauds the efforts of DEP for acquiring this land and the Florida Board of Trustees for supporting these important purchases."
"The purchase of these Florida Forever priority lands is movement in the right direction," added Nature Conservancy's Janet Bowman. "It's encouraging to see Cabinet's support for the purchase of these valuable lands that offer important water resource protection for springs and estuaries, coastal protection and critical habitat for wildlife."
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