As a result of a unique partnership with ranchers and foresters, The Nature Conservancy is excited to announce that a focus on funding conservation easements has resulted in more than
$11 million approved by the Florida Legislature through the Conservation and Rural Land Protection Easements and Agreement
“These agricultural producers are great managers of land that provides critical habitat for Florida's wildlife and water supplies,” said Florida Nature Conservancy Director of Protection Greg Knecht. “We are lucky in Florida that protecting agricultural lands also means protecting important landscapes.”
Early this year, The Nature Conservancy recognized that funding for conservation easements over agricultural land is an important tool for conservation that has received limited funding through the Rural and Family Lands Program administered by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in the past few years. The Conservancy partnered with Florida cattlemen and the Florida Forestry Association to highlight the benefits to Florida of funding protection of working lands.
"The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program will help us continue to maintain our working forests, which not only protect our natural resources but also provide much-needed jobs and products. The environment benefits; the economy benefits. The legislature truly created a win-win situation by funding this program," said Florida Forestry Association President Lynetta Usher Griner.
“During the legislative session, the Conservancy supported dedicated funding for conservation easements over agricultural lands. We are excited that Appropriation Chairs Negron and McKeel have come to an agreement to budget more than $11 million to fund this important land protection tool,” said Janet Bowman, the Conservancy’s director of legislative policy and strategies.
The appropriation for conservation and rural land protection easements will not only protect important working lands in Florida but could also provide military base mission protection in places like Avon Park Air Force Range and in Northwest Florida near Eglin Air Force Base.
Having state funds dedicated to the purchase of easements also opens up great opportunities for forest owners and ranchers to be able to leverage federal farm bill funds to protect their working lands.
“Our goal is to offer incentives to these landowners so that they are able to keep their land in agriculture, whether they are growing trees or they are growing cows, because their land is cleaning and holding water, it is providing connected habitat for wildlife, and it is being managed by those that care about it the most,” said Jennifer Conner Nelms, Conservancy director of government relations in Florida.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.