Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a landowner and a government agency or conservation organization. In the case of most conservation easements, landowners continue to own their property, yet they donate or sell specific land use rights to one of these organizations to achieve a mutually agreed conservation objective and to secure tax benefits or direct payments. Not all property is right for conservation easements or purchase by the State.
The State purchases private property for conservation that is within a project on an approved Florida Forever acquisition list. If private property is within an existing Florida Forever project, there are state funds available, and the landowner would like to sell, the landowner should contact the Bureau of Real Estate Services to discuss the acquisition process and to learn whether the State of Florida is able to pursue the land acquisition.
- Conservation Easements (UF/IFAS) – webpage which generally describes conservation easements and outlines various types of tax benefits which can be received from selling or donating conservation easements.
- Conservation Easements: Options for Preserving Current Land Uses (UF/IFAS) – document detailing important elements for landowners to consider before entering into a conservation easement agreement.
- Evaluating Private Lands for Conservation of Wildlife (UF/IFAS) - document identifying criteria such as size, location, connectivity, and human activity that should be considered when prioritizing areas for wildlife conservation.
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (NRCS) – provides details of the financial and technical resources available to private landowners to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands.
- Rural and Family Lands Program – an agricultural land preservation program designed to protect important agricultural lands through the acquisition of permanent land conservation easements.
- Critical Lands and Water Identification Project (CLIP) Planning Data - CLIP priorities can help show how a local property fits into a larger regional and statewide context in terms of conservation priorities
- Florida Forever (FDEP) – list of the types and acreages of areas that the state has protected through its conservation and recreation lands acquisition program.
Habitat management is necessary to maintain historically natural ecosystems of many threatened or endangered species and it can be used to control population sizes of game species. It involves setting specific, measurable goals for a defined area, applying appropriate management strategies to accomplish these goals, and monitoring the area to evaluate progress and outcomes. An effective management plan helps landowners and land managers document: (1) a baseline measurement of existing natural resources, land uses, wildlife, and habitat; (2) long-term goals and objectives, (3) proposed management activities to achieve the objectives and, (4) how and when to complete the management activities.
- Natural Resource Management Plan Guidance (UF/IFAS) – detailed explanation of the various parts of a natural resource management plan.
- Prescribed Fire in Florida [Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)] - prime source of information and resources for the approval and implementation of prescribed fire in Florida.
- Pine Ecosystem Conservation Handbook for the Gopher Tortoise (DeBerry and Pashley) – handbook which describes and recommends management options to restore and conserve southern pine habitats for wildlife.
- Objective Based Vegetation Monitoring (FWC) – webpage describing a science-based land management practice which provides FWC with decision support and accountability for land management decisions.
- Reference Natural Communities (FNAI) – Information on sites which can be useful in developing habitat restoration and management plans by using them to predict and evaluate measurable progress towards habitat management objectives.
- Land Management [South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)] – webpage describing the importance of land management for water supply and quality in Florida and contains the land management plans for SFWMD conservation lands in South Florida, including the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.
- Management Strategies for Florida’s Ephemeral Pond and Pond-Breeding Amphibians (FWC) – report which synthesizes existing information and stakeholder input to develop ephemeral pond management strategies for 5 amphibian Species of Greatest Conservation Need.
- Management of Florida Scrub for Threatened and Endangered Species (USACE) – report which provides available information about scrub communities on DOD installations in Florida and management recommendations within an ecosystem based, adaptive management context.
Hunting can be used as a habitat management tool to control the adverse effects of invasive species (e.g. feral hogs) and to assist with controlling population pressure on limited resources in ecologically sensitive areas. The FWC regulates methods for trapping feral hogs and other nuisance mammals. All hunting activities should adhere to the rules contained in the Florida Wildlife Code, Chapter 68A, Florida Administrative Code. Plans for hunting or trapping as a means for habitat management should include explicit procedures and measures of success.
Landowner Assistance Programs
There are various forms of technical and financial assistance available to farmers, ranchers, foresters, business owners, and conservationists, to help manage and sustain their land for the benefit of fish and wildlife. Conservation opportunities on private lands depend on the landowner’s desired objectives and the current habitat conditions of the property. Land management plans provide a starting point to accessing many of the available landowner assistance tools and programs.
- Florida Land Steward Partnership – initiative involving UF IFAS, FFS, FWC, USFWS, NRCS and other natural resource organizations intended as a “one-stop-shop” to deliver consistent and effective information to private landowners. Distributes a bi-weekly email to provide landowners with current workshop and event information as well as a quarterly newsletter with natural resource management topics.
- Landowner Assistance Program (FWC) – provides land use planning and habitat management assistance through technical guidance and education. Also recognizes landowners for their good stewardship practices.
- Landowner Success Stories (FWC) – examples of private landowners who have used assistance programs to improve habitat for diverse native wildlife on their land.
- Forest Stewardship Program (FFS) – addresses the improvement and maintenance of timber for wildlife, soil and water quality, recreation, and aesthetics
- Forestry and Wildlife Cost Share Programs (FFS) - quick reference designed to provide Non-Industrial Private Forest (NIPF) landowners with a brief overview of the primary federal cost-share programs that are available to assist them in implementing forestry and wildlife practices.
- Federal Conservation Programs (NRCS) – several programs are available to financially assist landowners to conduct activities that reduce soil erosion, enhance water supplies, improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by natural disasters.
- Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (USFWS) – aids with habitat enhancement and restoration projects though funding sources and assistance with the permitting process.
- Landowner Conservation Associations: A New Opportunity for Florida Landowners (FWC) – article discussing the benefits of groups of like-minded landowners working together to protect and improve wildlife habitat in their areas.
- Prescribed Burn Associations – scholarly article reviewing the implementation steps and suggested guidelines for landowner-led organizations intended to increase the application of prescribed fire.
- Private Land (US Forest Service) – list of available program tools to help private forest landowners combat threats to their land and maintain their land as working forests.
- District cost-share funding (SJRWMD) – funding to assist in creating sustainable water resources, provide flood protection, and enhance conservation efforts. Funding may be available for local governments, agricultural interests, and other entities.
- Agriculture Cost Share Program (Suwannee River Water Management District) – funding to help ensure that growers can meet regulatory goals and help the farm conserve and protect water while being a successful farming operation.
These programs provide private landowners the opportunity to use their land as a “bank” of ecological benefits to profit from the natural resource values on their property. The FDEP, FWC, and USFWS utilize these market-based approaches to encourage private landowners to manage and restore habitats on their properties towards sustaining wildlife species.
Species Conservation Banks
Areas that are permanently conserved and managed for federally listed species in exchange for USFWS’s approval to sell credits to offset impacts to those species occurring elsewhere from regional development.
Gopher Tortoise Recipient Sites
Properties that are permitted and managed specifically to relocate gopher tortoises onsite from areas slated for development, allowing recipient site owners to receive financial compensation for the long-term protection of tortoises. Recipient sites require active management to ensure that habitat continues to remain suitable for the gopher tortoise.
The practice by which an environmental enhancement and preservation project is conducted by a private entity so that they can set market-based prices for credits to be sold to wetland impact permittees. The Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) is a standardized tool which evaluates wetland function to determine a development’s compensatory mitigation requirements. UMAM has a significant focus on identifying fish and wildlife utilization of the impacted sites and the proposed compensatory mitigation areas.
- Conservation Banking for Landowners (USFWS) - website with resources for implementing a species conservation bank.
- Gopher Tortoise Recipient Sites (FWC) – website which describes the different types of gopher tortoise mitigation banks.
- Gopher Tortoise Permit Map (FWC) - provides the location and information about recipient sites throughout Florida.
- Mitigation Banking Rule and Procedure Synopsis (FDEP) – website with a thorough overview and of the wetland mitigation process and helpful resources.
Wildlife BMPs are effective actions that can be taken by landowners, producers, recreational users, and others to minimize the loss of imperiled species. These practices help to strike a balance between natural resource uses and natural resource conservation.
Wildlife BMPs for Agriculture and Forestry
Rural working lands are often important areas to the conservation of imperiled species and their habitats. Enrollment and adherence to Wildlife BMP programs, in some instances, allows landowners to forego obtaining permits for the incidental take of state imperiled species occurring due to their land use changes and agricultural operations.
- Silviculture BMPs (FDACS) – incorporated into 5I-6.002, F.A.C., this extensive manual covers activities necessary for protecting and maintaining water quality and wildlife habitat value during forestry activities. Those conducting silvicultural activities, not in compliance with this manual may be required to seek a permit from local, state, and/or the federal government prior to conducting the operation.
- Florida Forestry Wildlife BMPs for State Imperiled Species (FWC and FFS) and Agriculture Wildlife BMPs for State Imperiled Species (FWC and FDACS) – parallel manuals which provide landowners and operators guidance on practices which can benefit a multitude of aquatic and terrestrial species that use silvicultural and agricultural lands. Landowners can enroll in these BMP practices through the submittal of a Notice of Intent to Implement.
Wildlife BMPs for Recreation
Popular recreational spots are often important areas for the essential behaviors of imperiled species. BMPs have been developed for some scenarios where recreation activities may have a direct or indirect impact on these essential behaviors.
- BMPs for Operating Vehicles on the Beach (FWC) – resource which provides guidelines for minimizing the impacts caused by driving vehicles on the beach to threatened and endangered species and beach nesting species.
- Off-road Vehicle Best Management Practices for Forestlands (Journal of Conservation Planning) – review of scientific literature and guidance for managers.
Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCAs) are voluntary agreements between the USFWS and one or more public or private parties. The USFWS works with its partners to identify threats to candidate species, plan the measures needed to address the threats, and implement the measures so that listing may not be necessary. CCAs provide the signatory parties with certainty that they will incur no additional regulatory burden should the species become listed.
- CCA factsheet (USFWS) - resource which provides detailed explanations about how CCAs help species and how the CCA implementation process works.
- CCA with Assurances for Multiple At-Risk Species in North Florida – example of a comprehensive landscape approach CCA which is focused on streamlining the management of threatened and endangered species.
- Multi-State Gopher Tortoise CCA – an effort between federal, state, non-governmental, and private organizations to collectively implement proactive gopher tortoise conservation measures across its eastern range allowing knowledge and funding within a common conservation approach and framework.
Nature and wildlife-based recreation opportunities attract a great deal of out-of-state visitors to Florida and drive significant interstate tourism. A notable amount of economic opportunity and jobs are created for local economies through wildlife viewing recreation. Nature and wildlife-based tourism can be the catalyst for enacting significant conservation planning efforts to protect the natural habitats and wildlife that are the subjects of the tourism draw. Additionally, portions of revenue from wildlife-based recreation can be used as a source of funding to further conserve the habitats and populations that are creating and supporting the tourism appeal.
- Economic Benefits and Participation in Wildlife Recreation (FWC) – 2011 report which quantified the number of wildlife viewers (residents and nonresidents) in Florida at 1.9 million people, and total retail sales from wildlife viewing at approximately $2.8 billion.
- Wildlife Watching and Tourism (United Nations Environment Programme) - 2006 report examining the risks and benefits of the growing tourism activity and its impacts on species.
- Ecotourism in Florida (UF IFAS) – catalog of nature-based tourism businesses that operate in Florida with insights about their operations, challenges, and benefits. (UF IFAS)