50 Projects Eligible for Program; Conservation Easements Will Protect Land and Support Local Economy
Kissimmee, FL Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam and members of the Board of Trustees approved today the recommended 2014 Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) Prioritized Acquisition List. The RFLPP is a program of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Florida Forest Service that partners with private landowners to protect Florida's landscape, wildlife habitat and other natural resources, while maintaining private ownership and continuing agricultural operations.
“This program is unique in that it protects the environmental benefits of the land, while allowing agricultural operations to continue,” said Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture and a member of the Board of Trustees. “These lands will remain in the hands of private owners and will continue to generate revenue, create jobs and support the local economy.”
All four members of the Board of Trustees, including the Governor, voted to approve the recommended 2014 RFLPP Prioritized Acquisition List. With this approval, the RFLPP may begin partnering with these private landowners to create conservation easements to protect working agricultural lands throughout Florida.
The list ranks 50 eligible projects that applied to participate in the RFLPP during the recent application period, July 15 through August 28, 2013. The project applications were reviewed by teams of representatives of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Economic Opportunity, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and applicable water management districts. The teams conducted onsite reviews to assess the projects' merits and contributions to the goals of the program, including:
- Protect valuable agricultural lands;
- Continue agricultural production using sustainable agricultural practices;
- Provide reasonable protection of the environment without interfering with agricultural operations; and
- Protect natural resources.
The list, divided into three tiers, with Tier 1 being the highest priority, was developed by the technical review teams based on the evaluations. It was approved by the Selection Committee on November 15, 2013, and by the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) on December 13, 2013.
The RFLPP was created in 2001 with the goal of acquiring perpetual agricultural conservation easements that ensure lands will be preserved in agricultural use while providing for the protection of natural resources. The initial acquisition list consisted of 35 projects and was approved by the Board of Trustees on April 28, 2009. The most recent acquisition was approved by the Board of Trustees on November 19, 2013. Currently, more than 5,000 acres of land is protected as part of the RFLPP.
During the 2013 session, the Florida Legislature designated an additional $11.1 million to support the RFLPP. This funding will be used to acquire conservation easements for projects listed in the approved 2014 RFLPP Prioritized Acquisition List.