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Stewardship Highlights
Prescribed Burn

Prescribed burning is a valuable land management tool


Taking care of the natural and cultural resources of Florida’s more than 3.8 million acres of conservation lands is important. Nearly all of these conservation lands are open to the public for recreation, and nearly all lands require some form of stewardship activity, so the Division of State Lands (Division) leases these lands to state agencies and local governments to manage. The Division has leased over 500 conservation areas that include parks, preserves, forests, wildlife management areas and other conservation and recreation areas. The Division also leases non-conservation lands to state agencies and local governments for such uses as universities, correctional institutions, government buildings, etc.

Land Management Plan and Land Use Plan Overview

A land use or land management plan is required for all uplands under lease from the State of Florida. Land Use Plans are required for non-conservation lands, and Land Management Plans are required for conservation lands. Both Florida Statutes (Section 253.034(5), F.S.) and the lease from the State require that an initial Land Use or Land Management Plan be submitted to the Division within one year from the date the land is first leased. The plan must be updated and submitted again at least every ten years thereafter. A conservation land management plan must also be updated whenever new facilities are added, previously unapproved substantive land use or land management changes are proposed, or within one year of the addition of significant new lands. Failure to comply with Land Management Plan or Land Use Plan requirements can result in revocation of a state lands lease.

Developing a Plan

The plan requirements differ for conservation and non-conservation lands. The Division has identified which properties it considers to be in each category based on guidance from the Florida Statutes. The first step is to determine which category a property is in. The lease for the property will indicate whether a Land Use Plan is required (non-conservation) or a Land Management Plan (conservation) is required. The Division maintains this lease information, and it is available from Ms. Diane Martin. Information pertaining to actual conservation Land Management Plans is available from Mr. James Parker. Information regarding non-conservation Land Use Plans is available from Mr. Christopher Bass.

Interim Management During Plan Development

During the one-year period between when a conservation property is leased and the deadline for submitting a land management plan, the manager may perform activities on the site to allow public access, secure the boundaries, conduct biological surveys, and other non-invasive or minimally-invasive management activities. The Acquisition and Restoration Council has approved, and occasionally updates, a list of Interim Management Activities that may be undertaken during the development of a management plan. Depending on the activity, these may occur either with no review, review and approval by the Department of Environmental Protection, a water management district, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory and/or the Division of Historical Resources, or with public notice through the Acquisition and Restoration Council website. If a request for a management activity is placed on the website, it will be approved by the Division of State Lands if ARC members do not request that it be scheduled for a formal ARC agenda.

Non-Conservation Land Use Plans

The Division has developed a form that includes all the statutory and rule requirements for submittal of a Land Use Plan.  Any management plan format is acceptable and you are not required to use this form; however, this form was designed to assist you in answering the questions required in Section 253.034(5), (FS), and 18-2.018, FAC.  Completed land use plans should be submitted electronically to Mr. Christopher Bass.

Conservation Land Management Plans

All Land Management Plans must meet statutory (Sections 253.034(5) and 259.032(10), F.S.) and rule requirements. A checklist is available which itemizes these requirements. All managers of conservation lands are requested to include this checklist at the beginning of any submitted land management plan in order to assist ARC members and other reviewers in finding relevant references within the plans.

Amendments to Land Management Plans

A management plan may be amended any time that a managing agency wishes to add previously unapproved land uses or management activities. Many changes in land use or management activities, especially those that are included in ARC’s list of approved Interim Management Activities or additions to the Optimum Planning Boundary, may be allowed without any review by ARC or by posting on the ARC website as a minor plan amendment. More substantive changes must be presented to ARC at a regularly scheduled meeting. Requests for Amendments to management plans should be submitted to Mr. James Parker.

Land Management Plans over 160 acres

Land Management Plans for parcels over 160 acres must be presented to the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) for their recommendations. Pursuant to Florida Statute, ARC has 90 days to review these management plans. This requires the plans to be received by the Division at least 90 days prior to the next scheduled ARC meeting. Please refer to the ARC Calendar. The Division requires that 4 hard copies and 6 CDs with the entire management plan and appendices be delivered to Mr. James Parker, DEP, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., MS 140, Tallahassee, FL 32399 at least 90 days prior to the scheduled ARC meeting.

Land Management Plans 160 acres or less

Land Management Plans for parcels less than 160 acres may use a form that was developed by the Division. The form contains all the same requirements stated in the checklist. Once the Management Plan has been received, it will be placed on the Division web page for  two weeks to allow for review by the members of ARC. The ARC members may request that the plan be presented at a regularly scheduled meeting. The Division requires that one hard copy and one CD with the plan and appendices be submitted to Mr. James Parker, DEP, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., MS 140,Tallahassee, FL 32399. These plans are reviewed by Division staff and, if there are no concerns by ARC members, approved through a delegation of authority from the Governor and Cabinet sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund after the two-week review period on the Division web site. A letter will be sent to the lessee to document the approval of the plan.

For questions, please contact Mr. Joseph Wilson

How well are state-owned conservation lands being managed?

The Office of Environmental Services within the Division of State Lands coordinates the review of state-owned conservation lands by establishing teams of experts from state agencies and the general public that evaluate management practices on state lands.

Each park, forest or management area has a management plan describing the resources and recreational activities. Team members review each site plan to see if it adequately addresses management needs. The team also visits each site to evaluate whether the property is being managed for the purposes of acquisition and in accordance with the approved management plan.

The Office of Environmental Services compiles the team members' responses and prepares a report for each site reviewed. The Acquisition and Restoration Council and the Board of Trustees receive the review team reports and recommend management changes to improve resource protection or recreation opportunities.

Land Management Report Card: After conducting 338 reviews on more than 147 sites containing more than two million acres of state-owned land during the past 13 years, the land management review teams have found that:

  • 98 percent of the sites evaluated are managed appropriately.
  • more than 72 percent of the managers are doing an exceptional job of restoring natural areas; and
  • nearly 30 percent have an excellent prescribed burning program.

Most of the state’s conservation lands are managed by the following state agencies:
Florida Forest Service
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
DEP's Division of Recreation and Parks (DRP)
DEP's Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT)
DEP's Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA)

In addition, Florida’s five water management districts collectively own more than 1.5 million acres, which are managed to protect drinking water supplies as well as provide outdoor recreation opportunities.
Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD)
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)
St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD)
Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD)

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    Last updated: April 26, 2017

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