Conservation Easements and Land Acquisition
Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a landowner and a government agency or conservation organization, which are put in place to outline specific land use and development activities allowed and not allowed on a property. They are one of the most effective tools available for the conservation of private lands in Florida. 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. The application of conservation easements by private landowners has successfully protected and retained large tracts of wildlife habitat while meeting expectations for natural resource conservation, however, not all property is right for conservation easements.
The State also 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.
- 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.
- Working to Sustain Florida’s Rural and Natural Lands: A Call to Action (1000 Friends of Florida) –report identifying elements of visioning and public policy, economic strategies, planning strategies, and citizen involvement which can help to protect Florida’s rural and natural lands.
Candidate Conservation Agreements
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 conserve these species so that listing may not be necessary. They identify willing landowners, develop agreements, and design and implement conservation measures and monitor their effectiveness. 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.
Wildlife – Based Recreation and Tourism
Nature and wildlife-based recreation opportunities attract a great deal of out-of-state visitors to Florida and drive significant interstate tourism. A 2011 study performed in partnership with FWC found that Florida was the most popular state in the nation for wildlife viewing, and that wildlife viewing is the second most popular outdoor recreation activity in Florida (more-so than bicycling, fishing, golf, and tennis). Additionally, there were 1.9 million wildlife viewers (residents and nonresidents) participating in wildlife viewing activities in the state and the retail sales from wildlife viewing in Florida was estimated at $2.8 billion ($1.7 billion by residents and $1.1 billion by nonresidents). Thus, 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 fueling the tourism appeal.
- 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) –
- Strong Link Between Wildlife Recreation and Conservation (University of Clemson) – summary of research which examined what inspires people to support conservation.