By Gaye Sharpe
PPolk Parks and Natural Resources Division 

Polk County Accepting Environmental Land Nominations for Purchase or Conservation Easements

Landowners May Retain Use of Lands for Some Purposes Under Easements

 

Last updated 8/8/2023 at 10:13am

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Open flatwoods are being preserved in some parts of Polk to provide critical habitat for endangered species like the endemic Florida Scrub Jay as well as red-cockaded and pileated woodpeckers, black bears, Florida panthers, turkey, quail, and a host of rare plants.Recreational uses are also fulfilled under the conservation lands program. The voter-approved program is the second such effort by Polk County to set aside lands that can never be developed for wildlife habitat and water resources.

Polk County's Environmental Land's program is opening the process for accepting site nomination forms from landowners beginning August 1.

A 2022 voter-approved referendum created additional funding to acquire, preserve, protect, manage and/or restore water resources, environmental lands and important fish and wildlife habitat. This allows the county's Environmental Lands program to continue protecting important natural resources, connect greenspace and agriculture within the landscape and improve wildlife corridor connections.

Under the Polk County Environmental Lands program, properties are typically acquired by the county through outright fee title or less-than-fee methods such as conservation easements, bargain sales and donations. This program allows property owners several options to consider in their vision for the future land use.

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Wildlife monitoring is often conducted by volunteers who survey and count various species that make up the interconnected ecosystems of Florida.

Each property that is submitted will go through a preliminary review process, including obtaining input from a citizens advisory committee known as the Conservation Land Acquisition Selection Advisory Committee. Aspects of the property's sites relating to the preservation and protection of lands for their water resources, fish and wildlife habitat, and natural resource benefits are important in the evaluation process. Opportunities for providing resources-based recreation where compatible with these important resources is considered part of the program.

"Together with our non-profit, state, federal and landowner partners we can continue making a concentrated effort to protect Polk County's natural areas and connecting wildlife corridors through the county's working agriculture lands," said Gaye Sharpe, Director, Polk County Parks and Natural Resources Division.

Property owners who are interested in having sites evaluated are encouraged to complete and submit the Polk County Environmental Lands site nomination form, which can be found at Polknature.com. Contact Tabitha Biehl at [email protected] for more information.

 

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