Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet today approved the purchase of nearly 21,000 acres of conservation land as part of a partnership between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, The Trust for Public Land and landowner M.C. Davis after Florida was awarded $1.75 million from the U.S. Department of Defense as part of the 2013 REPI Challenge.
Governor Scott said, "Florida's conservation land program is one of the most robust in the country and we can smartly use taxpayer dollars to improve our environment while showing that Florida is the country's most military friendly state. We are thankful for the investments of MC Davis, The Trust for Public Land and the U.S. Department of Defense as we continue to purchase land that will ensure our military can properly train to protect Florida families and our important habitats."
The Department is slated to contribute $10.2 million of Florida Forever funds, Davis has discounted the property by $7 million, the U.S. Department of Defense will contribute $1.75 million as part of the 2013 REPI Challenge and Eglin Air Force Base will contribute $550,000.
The Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program funds cost-sharing partnerships for the military with state and local governments and private conservation organizations to address the need for compatible land use and conserved natural landscapes in support of military readiness. Projects require at least a 1:1 funding match.
DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said, "The Department has prioritized buying conservation land that protects springs, water quality and water quantity sources and buffers military areas. The purchase of 21,000 acres buffering Eglin Air Force Base accomplishes many of the Department's conservation goals. Under Governor Scott's leadership, this purchase shows that smart land purchases with committed partners can make a difference."
Col. Shawn Moore, 96th Civil Engineer Group commander said, "With the census recognizing Florida as having one of the largest population growths of any state, this 20,800 acre conservation easement will provide a critical buffer from future development for the many Department of Defense missions that Eglin's test and training range supports. This is the largest REPI acquisition ever, and could not have been realized without the support of Eglin's partners, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and The Trust for Public Land."
The purchase completes the Seven Runs Creek Florida Forever Project. In 2010, the North Nokuse Plantation project, which encompasses 11,961 acres, and the Seven Runs Creek project -- 14,649 acres -- were combined. The project was added to the Florida Forever priority list because of its groundwater recharge benefits and ability to protect 14 rare species, including the Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, Florida pine snake, Pine Barrens treefrog and eastern diamondback rattlesnake. It also provides additional buffer for Eglin Air Force Base, one of the country's largest Air Force bases.
Greg Chelius, senior project manager for The Trust for Public Land said, "We're grateful to partner with the State of Florida. Seven Runs Creek is a priority for clean drinking water and the Gulf of Mexico. M.C. Davis, the landowner, has already planted 7 million longleaf pine trees and his vision for restoration is the centerpiece of this initiative. And Eglin Air Force Base and Walton County will benefit from the protected lands which buffer the base."
Landowner M.C. Davis said, "The Seven Runs Creek conservation project is an exemplary example of success through cooperation between the Department of Defense, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Eglin Air Force Base, and private land owners. This success enhances the security of our country and our environment."