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North Florida Land Trust Launches 'Preservation Portfolio' Project To Buy 112,000 Acres Of Land

North Florida Land Trust
Florida wetlands

The North Florida Land Trust is launching one of its most ambitious plans yet — it’s aiming to preserve more than 112,000 acres at once.

The trust is asking businesses and philanthropists for help raising the estimated $215 million required. But environmentalists said that’s because lawmakers are underfunding the state’s conservation program.

The trust is trying to buy land in seven Northeast Florida counties.  On WJCT’s First Coast Connect Wednesday, executive director of the land trust, Jim McCarthy, said preservation creates a net economic benefit for taxpayers.

“You either receive the ecosystem benefits that nature’s providing you naturally or you start paying hundreds of millions of dollars for stormwater treatment facilities or wastewater treatment facilities,” he said.

McCarthy said the land trust is also hoping businesses who want to lower the carbon footprint will pitch in. But, he said, none of this would be necessary if state lawmakers fully funded Florida’s land acquisition program: Florida Forever.

“As a local commissioner pointed out to me, one good year of Amendment 1 and we could have this entire portfolio done,” he said of the amendment that funds Florida Forever.

Florida voters passed Amendment 1 to divert certain tax revenue to conservation. Environmental groups are suing lawmakers for what they call “misappropriating” funds by using the money to pay for state salaries and water projects instead of purchasing land. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.