is the Florida Forever program?
The Florida Forever program is the stateís newest blueprint
for conservation of our unique natural resources. It replaces
the highly successful
Preservation 2000 Program (P-2000), the
largest program of its kind in the United States. P-2000 was
responsible for the public acquisition, and protection, of
1,781,489 acres of land. This new program is
more than just an environmental land acquisition mechanism.
It encompasses a wider range of goals, including: restoration
of damaged environmental systems, water resource development
and supply, increased public access, public lands management
and maintenance, and increased protection of land by
acquisition of conservation easements.
may propose property for state purchase by the Divisionís
Florida Forever program?
Anyone may nominate a project. Federal, state and local
government agencies, conservation organizations or private
citizens are project sponsors. However, the sponsor is
required to contact every owner to let them know that their
property is being proposed for state acquisition. A Florida
Forever application form is available by writing to the
Department of Environmental Protection, Office of
Environmental Services, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., Mail Station
#140, Tallahassee, Fl, 32399-3000, or by telephone at
decides what lands to buy?
The Acquisition and Restoration Council consists of nine
members who represent these state agencies:
Department of Community Affairs;
Division of Forestry of the Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Affairs; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and
the Division of Historical Resources of the Department of
State. Four appointees of
the Governor with backgrounds from scientific disciplines of
land, water or environmental science also serve. Twice a year
the Council evaluates and selects Florida Forever acquisition
projects. The projects are grouped in three lists: Full Fee
projects, Less-than-Fee projects, and Small Parcels projects.
After projects are approved and grouped, the overall Florida
Forever list is submitted to the Governor and Cabinet for
Governor and Cabinet may
remove projects from the list but cannot otherwise change the
actually buys the land?
The Division of State Lands negotiates with owners and buys
lands on behalf of the people of Florida. The Division,
however, cannot act without the consent of the Governor and
Cabinet. The Governor and Cabinet oversee the entire program
by approving the list of projects recommended each year by
the Council and by approving specific purchases.
much money does the Florida Forever program receive each year
to buy land?
The Division receives about $105 million annually from the
sale of Florida Forever bonds. Future funding from the sale
of bonds depends on legislative action, but the Florida
Forever Program is scheduled to continue to the year 2010.
Several other state agencies also receive Florida Forever
funds each year.
that enough money to buy all the projects on the Florida
Forever Priority List?
No, it is not enough to acquire all the projects on the
Florida Forever list in any one year. The estimated market
value of the properties on the list well exceeds a billion
can an owner of property on the Florida Forever list first
expect to be notified by the Division of State Lands?
Sponsors of proposed projects are required to provide proof
that they notified owners before submitting an application.
The Division also tries to notify owners of large tracts
within new projects again before the Council ranks the list.
A letter is sent that asks about an owner's willingness to
consider selling his or her property. Owners of new projects
are also notified before surveying and appraising work
begins. A land acquisition agent again notifies owners before
does the state determine the price it will offer a land
The property is appraised to estimate its market value. For
most land acquisition projects, the Division hires two
private sector, independent appraisers. The Division uses
appraisals as a basis for negotiations. The appraisers also
consider the amount of submerged lands and wetlands in
relation to the uplands at the site when calculating its
are appraisals obtained?
The Division of State Lands will request permission from the
owner to appraise the property. The exact timing of this
request will depend on the location and resource value of the
property and the availability of Florida Forever funds. The
length of time of the appraisal process varies, depending on
the size and the complexity of the project.
factors do the appraisers consider when estimating value?
Appraisers look at many factors, including zoning issues, the
size and location of the property, and economic conditions
when reaching their estimate of market value. This estimated
value is also based on comparable sales information and on
the highest and best use of the subject property.
a property owner accompany appraisers when they make a site
Yes, owners are routinely invited to accompany appraisers and
to discuss the property with them.
What role can a non-profit organization play?
Non-profit organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy and
the Trust for Public Land, may sometimes play a role in
helping the Department acquire preservation land. They may
act as intermediaries with owners and may assist them with
tax and estate planning issues. If you would like further
information about non-profits, you should contact
organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for
Public Land, The Conservation Fund, or the Land Trust
being on the Florida Forever list affect property value?
No. Changes in property value through government action
normally occur as a result of local government decisions
involving zoning, development permits or changes in local
land use plans. Being on the Florida Forever list should not
trigger any such action. If lands contain significant natural
or cultural resources, however, various laws, rules and
ordinances may affect the use of the property. These same
resource values would also attract the state's interest in
acquiring the land.
a property owner have to sell to the state?
No, not under most circumstances. Land acquisition by the
Florida Forever program is almost exclusively voluntary. Only
on extremely rare occasions, when critical natural resources
are endangered, or the state's ability to effectively manage
adjacent state-owned land is jeopardized, does the state use
the power of eminent domain. Even then, trying to acquire
property by condemnation must be approved by a majority vote
of the Governor and Cabinet. The state must also have made at
least two bona fide offers through negotiations and show that
it reached an impasse with the owner or owners. All
condemnations must also be proven in court, while a jury
determines the price the state will pay. The state is also
required to pay all attorney fees, including those of the
owner. For these reasons, the state prefers to work with
can an owner keep his property off the Florida Forever list
or get it removed if it is already on the list?
Any property owner can ask the state to drop his or her
property from the Florida Forever list. The property owner
should send a certified letter to the Acquisition and
Restoration Council, at the Office of Environmental Services,
3900 Commonwealth Blvd., MS 140, Tallahassee, FL, 32399-3000.
The ARC will drop that piece of property from the acquisition
list, but, the Governor and the Cabinet do have the option,
when they approve the acquisition list, of putting that
property back on the list. That takes a supermajority vote of
the Cabinet, and happens only if the property is judged to be
of critical importance.
would the Government and Cabinet ever keep a property on the
Florida Forever list if it is owned by an unwilling seller?
The state is not allowed to acquire property that is not part
of the approved acquisition list. If the property has great
environmental or strategic land management value and the
owner does not want to sell it, the Governor and Cabinet
might keep the property on the list in case the owner, or a
future owner, changes his or her mind. This gives the state
the option of negotiating with an owner if anything changes
in the future.
are the advantages of selling property to the state?
If an owner needs cash, the state is in a position to offer
it. Even owners of large tracts can expect to receive cash
because of the size of the state's land acquisition trust
funds. On rare occasions and generally at the request of the
owner, payment may be received in installments over a two to
three year period. Selling land to the state may provide
certain tax benefits as well. An owner's decision to
sell property to the state also has other, less tangible
benefits. It can dramatically affect the Floridians and
visitors to Florida who want to learn and experience the
Florida of shady hammocks, open pine lands, rivers and
springs. An owner will also have the satisfaction of knowing
he or she has helped protect important ecological habitat or
there other ways to protect land without an owner selling all
of his or her property rights to the state or another public
Yes. Alternate methods are available in some cases, if it is
in the best interests of the property owner and the State. An
owner might consider a life estate. A life estate enables an
owner to continue to live on the property but assures state
ownership and management after his or her lifetime.
By granting or selling a conservation easement, an owner may
protect important resources while also receiving certain tax
advantages. A conservation easement allows the owner to
retain title to the property along with certain negotiated
rights, but protects the natural resource values of the
If an owner does not wish to sell the property at the present
time, he or she could offer the state a
first-right-of-refusal. That gives the state the chance to
try to buy the land in the future, if circumstances change
and an owner decides to put the property on the market.
These and other methods of resource protection planning can
often solve the needs of the owner and also save part of
Florida's natural or cultural heritage for the future.
*All photographs courtesy Callie DeHaven
more information, contact:
Florida Department of
Division of State Lands
Office of Environmental Services
3900 Commonwealth Blvd.
Mail Station #140
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000