TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state of Florida is getting ready to put up "for sale" signs on some state-owned property. This year's state budget requires land to be sold before more land can be bought.
Nearly 3 million acres of state-owned conservation land in Florida is being evaluated.
"We're going to run through all of our land. We're going to score it based on what we can sell eventually," said Patrick Gillespie, of the Department of Environmental Protection.
The department was given $70 million in the state budget to purchase new land. The hook? The state has to make up that money in large part by selling property it already owns.
"This Legislature and some of the people in power in Tallahassee don't have that point of view," said Eric Draper, of Audubon Florida.
The list is still being compiled on which state-owned properties will be put up for sale. There will be a public hearing later this month.
"Every time the state tries to sell a piece of conservation land, the people who are using it stand up and say, 'Hey, wait a minute," Draper said.
State and private agencies are working together to agree on a list of properties to put up for sale. The list won't include well-known parks like the Everglades.
"We're going to try and prevent selling any land that we think still is needed for conservation and can be helpful to protect natural resources," Gillespie said.
Other groups in the state are working toward a state constitutional amendment that would require one-third of the tax on real estate transfers to go toward buying lands. It's estimated to bring in a little less than $1 billion a year over the next 20 years. The money would be used to purchase land, restore conservation lands, beach restoration and water projects in the state.
"We think we need to buy more land, buy more wildlife habitat," Draper said.
The state hopes the process will lead them to valuable land Florida doesn't already own.
Florida had the largest land-buying program for 17 years between 1990 and 2007.