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Florida Cabinet approves 3,562-acre land conservation deal in Putnam County

State to spend $7.6 million to project more than 8,100 acres in 2 counties

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet agreed Tuesday to spend $7.6 million to conserve more than 8,100 acres in Putnam and Walton counties.

The acquisitions include a parcel in Putnam County that is part the Etoniah/Cross Florida Greenway Florida Forever project and two deals in Walton County that are part of a broader conservation effort known as the Seven Runs Creek Final Phase Florida Forever project.

The state is paying $2.873 million to Wetland Preserve LLC, for a 3,562-acre easement in Putnam County that, in part, will help complete the Florida National Scenic Trail, a statewide non-motorized trail that crosses several Florida Forever project sites.

The Putnam property is owned by Ben and Louann Williams is also a critical link in the Ocala to Osceola, or O2O wildlife corridor and was facilitated by the North Florida Land Trust. The conservation easement allows the Williams to continue to own the land while ensuring it will be preserved for future generations. 

"Marc Hudson, our land protection director, has worked tirelessly for more than five years to help the Williams (family) achieve their goal of preserving this land. With this funding in place from Florida Forever, this critical piece of property will remain free from development in perpetuity," said Jim McCarty, president of the Land Trust.

The Williams family was recently named Florida Landowners of the Year by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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Each deal involves purchasing a conservation easement on the properties. Conservation easements restrict future development while typically allowing landowners to continue using property for such things as agriculture.

In Walton County, the state is paying $2.42 million to Nokuse Education, Inc. for a 2,436-acre conservation easement and $2.315 million to the Stella Davis 2015 Plantation Trust for a 2,133-acre easement.