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Proposed Sale of Florida Conservation Lands Causes Concern

Conservationists around Florida are paying close attention to a plan to sell thousands of acres of state property, including beaches, forests and wetlands. The lands were originally acquired to protect them from development. 

Here on the First Coast, parts of Anastasia State Park in St. Johns County and Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park in Duval County would be included in the proposal.

The State Department of Environmental Protection has released a list of roughly 160 properties that could be sold. 

Environmental advocacy groups are raising concerns, including the North Florida Land Trust.

"We feel this process is being rushed through before it can be assessed properly," says NFLT Land Protection Director Marc Hudson.

The DEP says no lands will be put up for sale until after public hearings are held this fall.

Decades ago, the state legislature created land conservation initiatives like Florida Forever as a way to save environmentally sensitive lands. Over time the state acquired millions of acres of swamps, forests and beaches, attracting throngs of tourists to the Sunshine State.

But in recent years, funding for Florida Forever has dwindled.

The latest proposal has environmental groups calling for a constitutional amendment that would require the state to set aside $100 million a year for buying environmentally sensitive land — without selling off any in return.

You can learn more about the issue and make your voice heard on Audubon of Florida's website.

You can email public comments to NFLT's public comments can be found here.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.