In an unprecedented move, 38,848 acres are being preserved to protect Florida’s ecosystem, with 12 landowners behind the effort. These landowners are selling conservation easements to the State of Florida, which will place restrictions on future development.
Under these transactions, landowners retain ownership and agricultural use of land in exchange for selling the property’s development rights. This will ensure the land, wildlife and agriculture are protected forever. The State agreed to buy the conservation easements for more than $97 million.
Dean Saunders, the founder of SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler, brokered half of the conservation easements that were approved by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund during the Governor & Cabinet meeting. Of the 38,848 acres sold to the State of Florida, Mr. Saunders brokered 18,427 acres totaling approximately $45 million.
“Florida is currently seeing a mass migration with over 1,100 people moving to the state each day. The state is facing pressures to balance the conservation of its natural and working agricultural land and the much-needed development to accommodate the newcomers,” said Saunders. “Conservation easements have proven to be a great tool to protect land from development and preserve critical habitats, wetlands and wildlife. I’m honored that my expertise has helped a number of landowners preserve Florida’s land for future generations.”
Saunders has been a leading force behind Florida’s conservation efforts. As a former state legislator in the 1990s, he introduced legislation that has now become known as the conservation easement program. For the last 25 years, he has been representing ranchers to secure conservation easements from the State on their land. Conservation easements allow the landowner to sell the developmental rights of their property to a qualified agency and keep the property in natural or working agricultural conditions while maintaining ownership of the land. The conservation easement guides the property’s use and protects it in perpetuity. Conservation easements are cost-effective for taxpayers because it costs less money to buy rights than the property and the state doesn’t have to pay to manage the land.