FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 19, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Highlighting Florida’s continued efforts to conserve and protect the state’s natural resources, last Friday Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein and various environmental leaders visited the Red Hills Conservation Florida Forever Project, located in the Red Hills region of North Tallahassee.
The Red Hills Conservation Project was approved for purchase through Florida Forever – the state’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program. This is one of the state’s largest endeavors to preserve and protect longleaf pine ecosystems through coordinated conservation efforts.
During the visit, attendees witnessed first-hand the work that goes into protecting endangered longleaf pine forests, Lake Miccosukee and various regional ecosystems surrounding the property. The group discussed topics including the importance of science-based conservation, wildlife and land monitoring, and the role of prescribed fire for healthy forests and reducing wildfire risk. The tour was guided by leaders from Tall Timbers, a research station and nationally accredited land trust whose mission is to foster exemplary and stewardship through research, conservation and education.
The Red Hills Conservation Project, like other comparable conservation projects across the state, will remain in private ownership with privately funded management, protect the property from development in perpetuity and provide increased protection for wildlife habitat, water supply and public access.
“It was an honor to join Secretary Valenstein to visit the Red Hills Conservation Florida Forever Project,” said CFO Jimmy Patronis. “The Florida Forever Project is crucial to conserving natural lands and waterways and renewing Florida’s commitment to conserve the state’s natural and cultural heritage. This partnership has proven to be great for Florida’s economy and the economic impact from longleaf ecosystems provides a great benefit for our state. I’d like to thank all of the environmental leaders who are working hard to ensure Florida’s natural resources are protected for future generations.”
“Land conservation has a far-reaching impact on virtually every component of our environment and communities,” said DEP Secretary Valenstein. “It is a critical component in our collaborative efforts to ensure our natural resources are protected and remain healthy for generations to come. This property is a great example of the continued coordination among environmental stakeholders that has strengthened our ability to safeguard our state’s conservation lands.”
“Gems like this are the heart of the Florida Forever list and exactly why annual funding for this program is so important,” said Executive Director of Audubon Florida Julie Wraithmell. “Not only do these places protect Florida’s ecology and provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike, but they protect our water quality, fight climate change and support the quality of life we expect from this special state.”
“The Red Hills Conservation Project, through Florida Forever, is a strategic public partnership that complements decades of private investment to create these large blocks of permanently protected habitat in this incredibly diverse and intact landscape,” explained Tall Timbers President/CEO Dr. Bill Palmer. “We have an opportunity here with willing private landowners, to connect existing protected lands and create large corridors of wildlife habitat, without increasing state land management costs in the future.”
“Protecting our environment and conservation lands has always been good for Florida’s economy. Private working longleaf forests provide many environmental and economic benefits to all of Florida’s residents and visitors,” stated Ad Platt, Vice President of Operations for The Longleaf Alliance. “In addition to the quality timber, jobs, wildlife, and recreation associated with longleaf ecosystems, these forests are also the premier land used for providing clean water and protecting water quality. In collaboration with a host of public and private partners, The Longleaf Alliance celebrates the Florida Forever program and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s successful protection of land and water across the State of Florida.”
Florida Forever is the state’s conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship. Through this program, the state of Florida has acquired more than 867,000 acres. Combined with the purchases of the Preservation 2000 program, Florida Forever’s forerunner, the state has acquired more than 2.6 million acres since 1991. Under Governor Ron DeSantis’ leadership, $100 million has been allocated for Florida Forever land acquisition efforts in 2020.