Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state cabinet on Tuesday approved spending nearly $100 million on land deals that will secure nearly 40,000 acres as part of a growing wildlife corridor.
The 12 agreements are part of the Florida Forever program and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. They involve purchasing conservation easements, which allow current landowners to continue activities such as ranching and farming while prohibiting residential and commercial development.
“The time to take action is now, and our leaders understand this urgency,” Mallory Dimmit, chief executive officer for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, said in a prepared statement.
Nine of the deals cover a combined 18,279 acres in St. Lucie, DeSoto, Walton, Hardee, Polk, Highlands and Charlotte counties. Those deals, costing a combined $57.6 million, will be funded through the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.
An additional 17,302 acres spread over St. Lucie, Jefferson and Glades counties, will draw $36.48 million through the Florida Forever program.
The agreements would help carry out the 2021 Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which calls for pumping $300 million a year into an effort envisioned as connecting 18 million acres from the Florida Keys to the Panhandle. About 8 million acres need to be secured. The state has a goal of adding 900,000 acres by the end of the decade.