DEP To Host Public Meetings As Part Of State Land Assessment Process

TALLAHASSEE –The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has launched a webpage and is hosting three public meetings later this month to inform the public and accept public comment about its assessment of state-owned conservation land.

The purpose of the meetings is to present the scientific process used to assess conservation land managed by state agencies and the results of that assessment, as well to receive public comment. This follows the Florida Legislature’s directive to conduct an assessment of state-owned conservation land in order to sell up to $50 million of land no longer needed for conservation purposes, which will allow for the purchase of more valuable conservation land.

“I’m proud of the technical work that is being done to create a scientific process to assess the State of Florida’s conservation land,” said Susan Grandin, Director of the Division of State Lands. “This is a great opportunity to see what land can be sold in order to purchase even more valuable conservation land to protect Florida’s most valuable natural and cultural resources.”

The Department is working with national conservation land non-profit group The Trust for Public Land, real estate brokers Cushman & Wakefield as well as collaborating with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Forest Service, Florida Division of Historical Resources, The Nature Conservancy, Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Florida League of Cities and Tallahassee – Leon County Planning Department. Several divisions within DEP have worked on this initiative, including the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, the Division of Recreation and Parks, the Division of State Lands and the Florida Geological Survey.

Representatives from each agency and non-profit groups met July 15 and 19 in a technical meeting to determine what criteria should be used in assessing conservation land as well as what weight to give each criteria. The group of experts determined the weight of 65 criteria categories, including land’s value regarding springs, lakes, rivers, the Floridan Aquifer, hunting and recreational opportunities, archeological features and marketability.

The Department has taken those criteria and is running all state-owned conservation land through a model designed to score the land based on its conservation value. After additional review by state agencies, the Department will conduct title and market study work in order to determine the potential for sale.

The Department welcomes public comment on the process of scoring as well as the actual land being considered for sale. The Department is hosting three public meetings in August, at which time the initial list of scored sites will be available:

5-8 p.m. Aug. 21 in Conference Room A and B, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., Tallahassee, FL
6-8 p.m. Aug. 22 Webinar
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 23 Webinar

Additionally, the Acquisition and Restoration Council will meet at 9 a.m. Sept. 12 and 13 in Conference Room A and B, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., Tallahassee, FL to discuss the process and the scoring of land.

Following the Council meeting, the Department will host regional meetings throughout the state in order to receive additional comment. Those meetings will be announced on a new webpage designed to keep the public informed about this scientifically based assessment of state-owned land.

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