A dozen landowners have sold the conservation easements on 38,848 acres of their agricultural property to the state of Florida for $97 million. The acreage includes land in Charlotte and Polk counties.
In exchange for selling the development rights to the properties, the state will allow the landowners to continue owning and working the land. The impetus behind the deal is to “ensure the land, wildlife and agriculture are protected forever.”
That’s according to a statement from SVN/Saunders Ralston Dantzler of Lakeland which announced the deal and brokered the sale of 18,427 of the acres. The deals totaled $45 million.
The properties are from across the state, including the pair in Charlotte and Polk. The Charlotte land is 2,846 acres and sold for $8.6 million. The Polk land was 33,634 acres and sold for $10.7 million.
Saunders represented the owners of the Polk property.
The purchases were approved Tuesday by the board of trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, which is charged with protecting and conserving the state’s natural resources.
A conservation easement is an agreement a landowner makes to protect their land from future commercial or residential development while continuing to work on it. According to Saunders, the easement guides the property’s use and protects it in perpetuity.
Critics, however, say easements tie the hands of future property owners who may want to capitalize on the land.
Saunders, a former legislator and longtime proponent of conservation efforts, says that with more than 1,000 people a day moving to Florida, the state has to balance the development needed to accommodate new arrivals with protecting natural spaces and agricultural land.
“Conservation easements have proven to be a great tool to protect land from development and preserve critical habitats, wetlands and wildlife,” he says.