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Florida's Cooperative Conservation Blueprint

Florida Panther running

Florida’s human population is expected to reach 25 million residents by the year 2035 (Bureau of Economic and Business Research 2010). If we continue to develop as we have in the past, the space needed to accommodate the expected growth through 2060 will equal an area larger than the state of Vermont – about 7 million acres. The loss of so much rural, agricultural and natural lands will have important consequences for fish and wildlife. More on the Wildlife 2060 report.

The Cooperative Conservation Blueprint (Blueprint) is a multi-partner strategic conservation process initiated in 2006 by the FWC as part of implementing Florida’s State Wildlife Action Plan. The process has brought together landowners, businesses, governmental and conservation organizations to collectively build broad agreement on both voluntary and non-regulatory conservation incentives along with a comprehensive vision of wildlife habitat and connectivity priorities to which existing and new incentive ideas can be applied.  The goal is to conserve wildlife and maintain a sustainable economy and a wide range of agriculture and nature-based opportunities, as well as provide clean air and water for the benefit of all Floridians.

The Blueprint builds on the Critical Land and Waters Identification Project (CLIP). The CLIP is a fully integrated set of GIS data layers of priority statewide conservation areas, working landscapes and development areas. The CLIP uses science and the best statewide spatial data to identify Florida's critical environmental resources in a database that can be used as a decision-support tool for collaborative statewide and regional conservation and land-use planning. More on the CLIP.

The Cooperative Conservation Blueprint is about creating a bold vision for our state's future, 25-50 years from today. It will be a collaborative effort that integrates environmental, social, and economic considerations to enhance the quality of life for future generations of Floridians.

Blueprint Regional Pilot

Map of Land Ownership in Southwest Florida

The Blueprint Regional Pilot was instituted in 2010 to focus application of incentives-based conservation landscape planning in south central and southwest Florida. The homogeneity of the landscape, high level of on-going conservation activities in the region and large tracts of open and working lands make this geographic area particularly useful for on the ground application of the Blueprint process. The Pilot was organized into two main initiatives that included a southwest Florida area corridor mapping effort and a northern Everglades focus on incentive development. Priority conservation areas throughout the region were identified using extensive ecological research and stakeholder involvement. The second initiative involved identification of existing incentives and investigation into new incentives and alternative funding strategies with the potential to protect priority lands.

The map to the right demonstrates the current pattern of land ownership, with large tracts of important natural lands owned by a relatively small number of landowners that provides a timely opportunity for the strategic use of incentives to conserve large areas.

Incentive-Based Conservation

Private landowners have been and continue to be excellent stewards of Florida’s landscapes. A core component of the Blueprint process is to focus on voluntary incentive-based conservation. Incentives should reward private landowners for conserving priority conservation land, and in doing so, make owning those lands an economic asset. Close coordination with state, regional, and local agencies with an interest in the incentive ideas is essential. The goal is to create a win-win for landowners, the public, and the environment.

Gopher Tortoise Payment for Ecosystem Services Program

Gopher Tortoise on lawn

In addition to coordinating with existing incentive programs, new opportunities are being explored. Working with the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Program and the Landowner Assistance Program, the Blueprint initiated a new Payment for Ecosystems Services (PES) program that will compensate landowners for stewardship of habitat for this vital keystone species. The PES program proposes to work with landowners within lands that are priorities for regional connectivity and for gopher tortoises and their commensals.

For more information about the Cooperative Conservation Blueprint, please contact Brian Branciforte.