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The Florida Statutes

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C)

Chapter 259
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F.S. 259.032
259.032 Conservation and recreation lands.
(1) It is the policy of the state that the citizens of this state shall be assured public ownership of natural areas for purposes of maintaining this state’s unique natural resources; protecting air, land, and water quality; promoting water resource development to meet the needs of natural systems and citizens of this state; promoting restoration activities on public lands; and providing lands for natural resource-based recreation. In recognition of this policy, it is the intent of the Legislature to provide such public lands for the people residing in urban and metropolitan areas of the state, as well as those residing in less populated, rural areas. It is the further intent of the Legislature, with regard to the lands described in paragraph (2)(c), that a high priority be given to the acquisition, restoration, and management of such lands in or near counties exhibiting the greatest concentration of population and, with regard to the lands described in subsection (2), that a high priority be given to acquiring lands or rights or interests in lands that advance the goals and objectives of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s approved species or habitat recovery plans, or lands within any area designated as an area of critical state concern under s. 380.05 which, in the judgment of the advisory council established pursuant to s. 259.035, or its successor, cannot be adequately protected by application of land development regulations adopted pursuant to s. 380.05. Finally, it is the Legislature’s intent that lands acquired for conservation and recreation purposes be managed in such a way as to protect or restore their natural resource values, and provide the greatest benefit, including public access, to the citizens of this state.
(2) The Governor and Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, may expend moneys appropriated by the Legislature to acquire the fee or any lesser interest in lands for any of the following public purposes:
(a) To conserve and protect environmentally unique and irreplaceable lands that contain native, relatively unaltered flora and fauna representing a natural area unique to, or scarce within, a region of this state or a larger geographic area;
(b) To conserve and protect lands within designated areas of critical state concern, if the proposed acquisition relates to the natural resource protection purposes of the designation;
(c) To conserve and protect native species habitat or endangered or threatened species, emphasizing long-term protection for endangered or threatened species designated G-1 or G-2 by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, and especially those areas that are special locations for breeding and reproduction;
(d) To conserve, protect, manage, or restore important ecosystems, landscapes, and forests, if the protection and conservation of such lands is necessary to enhance or protect significant surface water, groundwater, coastal, recreational, timber, or fish or wildlife resources which cannot otherwise be accomplished through local and state regulatory programs;
(e) To promote water resource development that benefits natural systems and citizens of the state;
(f) To facilitate the restoration and subsequent health and vitality of the Florida Everglades;
(g) To provide areas, including recreational trails, for natural resource-based recreation and other outdoor recreation on any part of any site compatible with conservation purposes;
(h) To preserve significant archaeological or historic sites;
(i) To conserve urban open spaces suitable for greenways or outdoor recreation which are compatible with conservation purposes;
(j) To preserve agricultural lands under threat of conversion to development through less-than-fee acquisitions; or
(k) To complete critical linkages through fee or less-than-fee acquisitions that will help preserve and protect the green and blue infrastructure and vital habitat for wide-ranging wildlife, such as the Florida panther, within the Florida wildlife corridor as defined in s. 259.1055(4).
(3) Lands acquired for conservation and recreation purposes shall be for use as state-designated parks, recreation areas, preserves, reserves, historic or archaeological sites, geologic or botanical sites, recreational trails, forests, wilderness areas, wildlife management areas, urban open space, or other state-designated recreation or conservation lands; or they shall qualify for such state designation and use if they are to be managed by other governmental agencies or nonstate entities as provided for in this section.
(4) The board of trustees may expend funds appropriated by the Legislature for the initiation and maintenance of a natural areas inventory to aid in the identification of areas to be acquired for conservation and recreation purposes.
(5) The board of trustees may enter into any contract necessary to accomplish the purposes of this section. The lead land managing agencies designated by the board of trustees also are directed by the Legislature to enter into contracts or interagency agreements with other governmental entities, including local soil and water conservation districts, or private land managers who have the expertise to perform specific management activities which a lead agency lacks, or which would cost more to provide in-house. Such activities shall include, but not be limited to, controlled burning, road and ditch maintenance, mowing, and wildlife assessments.
(6) Conservation and recreation lands are subject to the selection procedures of s. 259.035 and related rules and shall be acquired in accordance with acquisition procedures for state lands provided for in s. 253.025, except as otherwise provided by the Legislature. An inholding or an addition to conservation and recreation lands is not subject to the selection procedures of s. 259.035 if the estimated value of such inholding or addition does not exceed $500,000. When at least 90 percent of the acreage of a project has been purchased for conservation and recreation purposes, the project may be removed from the list and the remaining acreage may continue to be purchased. Funds appropriated to acquire conservation and recreation lands may be used for title work, appraisal fees, environmental audits, and survey costs related to acquisition expenses for lands to be acquired, donated, or exchanged which qualify under the categories of this section, at the discretion of the board. When the Legislature has authorized the department to condemn a specific parcel of land and such parcel has already been approved for acquisition, the land may be acquired in accordance with chapter 73 or chapter 74, and the funds appropriated to acquire conservation and recreation lands may be used to pay the condemnation award and all costs, including reasonable attorney fees, associated with condemnation.
(7)(a) All lands managed under this chapter and s. 253.034 must be:
1. Managed in a manner that will provide the greatest combination of benefits to the public and to the resources.
2. Managed for public outdoor recreation which is compatible with the conservation and protection of public lands. Such management may include, but not be limited to, the following public recreational uses: fishing, hunting, camping, bicycling, hiking, nature study, swimming, boating, canoeing, horseback riding, diving, model hobbyist activities, birding, sailing, jogging, and other related outdoor activities.
(b) Concurrent with its adoption of the annual list of acquisition projects pursuant to s. 259.035, the board shall adopt a management prospectus for each project. The management prospectus shall delineate:
1. The management goals for the property;
2. The conditions that will affect the intensity of management;
3. An estimate of the revenue-generating potential of the property, if appropriate;
4. A timetable for implementing the various stages of management and for providing access to the public, if applicable;
5. A description of potential multiple-use activities as described in this section and s. 253.034;
6. Provisions for protecting existing infrastructure and for ensuring the security of the project upon acquisition;
7. The anticipated costs of management and projected sources of revenue, including legislative appropriations, to fund management needs; and
8. Recommendations as to how many employees will be needed to manage the property, and recommendations as to whether local governments, volunteer groups, the former landowner, or other interested parties can be involved in the management.
(c) Concurrent with the approval of the acquisition contract pursuant to s. 253.025(4) for any interest in lands except those lands acquired pursuant to s. 259.1052, the board shall designate an agency or agencies to manage such lands. The board shall evaluate and amend, as appropriate, the management policy statement for the project as provided by s. 259.035 to ensure that the policy statement is compatible with conservation, recreation, or both. For any fee simple acquisition of a parcel which is or will be leased back for agricultural purposes, or any acquisition of a less than fee interest in land that is or will be used for agricultural purposes, the board shall first consider having a soil and water conservation district, created pursuant to chapter 582, manage and monitor such interests.
(d) State agencies designated to manage lands acquired under this chapter or with funds deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, except those lands acquired under s. 259.1052, may contract with local governments and soil and water conservation districts to assist in management activities, including the responsibility of being the lead land manager. Such land management contracts may include a provision for the transfer of management funding to the local government or soil and water conservation district from the land acquisition trust fund of the lead land managing agency in an amount adequate for the local government or soil and water conservation district to perform its contractual land management responsibilities and proportionate to its responsibilities, and which otherwise would have been expended by the state agency to manage the property.
(e) Immediately following the acquisition of any interest in conservation and recreation lands, the department, acting on behalf of the board, may issue to the lead managing entity an interim assignment letter to be effective until the execution of a formal lease.
(8)(a) State, regional, or local governmental agencies or private entities designated to manage lands under this section shall develop and adopt, with the approval of the board, an individual management plan for each project designed to conserve and protect such lands and their associated natural resources. Private sector involvement in management plan development may be used to expedite the planning process.
(b) Individual management plans required by s. 253.034(5), for parcels over 160 acres, shall be developed with input from an advisory group. Members of this advisory group shall include, at a minimum, representatives of the lead land managing agency, comanaging entities, local private property owners, the appropriate soil and water conservation district, a local conservation organization, and a local elected official. If habitat or potentially restorable habitat for imperiled species is located on state lands, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall be included on any advisory group required under chapter 253, and the short-term and long-term management goals required under chapter 253 must advance the goals and objectives of imperiled species management without restricting other uses identified in the management plan. The advisory group shall conduct at least one public hearing within the county in which the parcel or project is located. For those parcels or projects that are within more than one county, at least one areawide public hearing shall be acceptable and the lead managing agency shall invite a local elected official from each county. The areawide public hearing shall be held in the county in which the core parcels are located. Notice of such public hearing shall be posted on the parcel or project designated for management, advertised in a paper of general circulation, and announced at a scheduled meeting of the local governing body before the actual public hearing. The management prospectus required pursuant to paragraph (7)(b) shall be available to the public for a period of 30 days before the public hearing.
(c) Once a plan is adopted, the managing agency or entity shall update the plan at least every 10 years in a form and manner adopted by rule of the board. Such updates, for parcels over 160 acres, shall be developed with input from an advisory group. Such plans may include transfers of leasehold interests to appropriate conservation organizations or governmental entities designated by the council for uses consistent with the purposes of the organizations and the protection, preservation, conservation, restoration, and proper management of the lands and their resources. Volunteer management assistance is encouraged, including, but not limited to, assistance by youths participating in programs sponsored by state or local agencies, by volunteers sponsored by environmental or civic organizations, and by individuals participating in programs for committed delinquents and adults.
(d) For each project for which lands are acquired after July 1, 1995, an individual management plan shall be adopted and in place no later than 1 year after the essential parcel or parcels identified in the priority list developed pursuant to s. 259.105 have been acquired. The department shall distribute only 75 percent of the acquisition funds to which a budget entity or water management district would otherwise be entitled to any budget entity or any water management district that has more than one-third of its management plans overdue.
(e) Individual management plans shall conform to the appropriate policies and guidelines of the state land management plan and shall include, but not be limited to:
1. A statement of the purpose for which the lands were acquired, the projected use or uses as defined in s. 253.034, and the statutory authority for such use or uses.
2. Key management activities necessary to achieve the desired outcomes, including, but not limited to, providing public access, preserving and protecting natural resources, protecting cultural and historical resources, restoring habitat, protecting threatened and endangered species, controlling the spread of nonnative plants and animals, performing prescribed fire activities, and other appropriate resource management.
3. A specific description of how the managing agency plans to identify, locate, protect, and preserve, or otherwise use fragile, nonrenewable natural and cultural resources.
4. A priority schedule for conducting management activities.
5. A cost estimate for conducting priority management activities, to include recommendations for cost-effective methods of accomplishing those activities.
6. A cost estimate for conducting other management activities which would enhance the natural resource value or public recreation value. The cost estimate shall include recommendations for cost-effective methods of accomplishing those activities.
7. A determination of the public uses and public access that would be compatible with conservation, recreation, or both.
(f) The Division of State Lands shall submit a copy of each individual management plan for parcels which exceed 160 acres in size to each member of the council, which shall:
1. Within 60 days after receiving a plan from the Division of State Lands, review each plan for compliance with the requirements of this subsection and with the requirements of the rules adopted by the board pursuant to this subsection.
2. Consider the propriety of the recommendations of the managing agency with regard to the future use or protection of the property.
3. After its review, submit the plan, along with its recommendations and comments, to the board, with recommendations as to whether to approve the plan as submitted, approve the plan with modifications, or reject the plan.
(g) The board shall consider the individual management plan submitted by each state agency and the recommendations of the council and the department and shall approve the plan with or without modification or reject such plan. The use or possession of any lands owned by the board which is not in accordance with an approved individual management plan is subject to termination by the board.

By July 1 of each year, each governmental agency and each private entity designated to manage lands shall report to the Secretary of Environmental Protection on the progress of funding, staffing, and resource management of every project for which the agency or entity is responsible.

(9)(a) The Legislature recognizes that acquiring lands pursuant to this chapter serves the public interest by protecting land, air, and water resources which contribute to the public health and welfare, providing areas for natural resource-based recreation, and ensuring the survival of unique and irreplaceable plant and animal species. The Legislature intends for these lands to be managed and maintained in a manner that is compatible with conservation, recreation, or both, consistent with the land management plan and for the public to have access to and use of these lands if public access would not harm the resources the state is seeking to protect on the public’s behalf.
(b) An amount of not less than 1.5 percent of the cumulative total of funds ever deposited into the former Florida Preservation 2000 Trust Fund and the Florida Forever Trust Fund shall be made available for the purposes of management, maintenance, and capital improvements, and for associated contractual services, for conservation and recreation lands acquired with funds deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund pursuant to s. 28(a), Art. X of the State Constitution or pursuant to former s. 259.032, Florida Statutes 2014, former s. 259.101, Florida Statutes 2014, s. 259.105, s. 259.1052, or previous programs for the acquisition of lands for conservation and recreation, including state forests, to which title is vested in the board of trustees and other conservation and recreation lands managed by a state agency. Each agency with management responsibilities shall annually request from the Legislature funds sufficient to fulfill such responsibilities to implement individual management plans. For the purposes of this paragraph, capital improvements shall include, but need not be limited to, perimeter fencing, signs, firelanes, access roads and trails, and minimal public accommodations, such as primitive campsites, garbage receptacles, and toilets. Any equipment purchased with funds provided pursuant to this paragraph may be used for the purposes described in this paragraph on any conservation and recreation lands managed by a state agency. The funding requirement created in this paragraph is subject to an annual evaluation by the Legislature to ensure that such requirement does not impact the respective trust fund in a manner that would prevent the trust fund from meeting other minimum requirements.
(c) All revenues generated through multiple-use management or compatible secondary-use management shall be returned to the lead agency responsible for such management and shall be used to pay for management activities on all conservation, preservation, and recreation lands under the agency’s jurisdiction. In addition, such revenues shall be segregated in an agency trust fund used for land management activities, other than a land acquisition trust fund, and such revenues shall remain available to the agency in subsequent fiscal years to support land management appropriations. For the purposes of this paragraph, compatible secondary-use management shall be those activities described in subsection (7) undertaken on parcels designated as single use pursuant to s. 253.034(2)(b).
(d) Up to one-fifth of the funds appropriated for the purposes identified in paragraph (b) shall be reserved by the board for interim management of acquisitions and for associated contractual services, to ensure the conservation and protection of natural resources on project sites and to allow limited public recreational use of lands. Interim management activities may include, but not be limited to, resource assessments, control of invasive, nonnative species, habitat restoration, fencing, law enforcement, controlled burning, and public access consistent with preliminary determinations made pursuant to paragraph (7)(e). The board shall make these interim funds available immediately upon purchase.
(e) The department shall set long-range and annual goals for the control and removal of nonnative, invasive plant species on public lands. Such goals shall differentiate between aquatic plant species and upland plant species. In setting such goals, the department may rank, in order of adverse impact, species that impede or destroy the functioning of natural systems. Notwithstanding paragraph (a), up to one-fourth of the funds provided for in paragraph (b) may be used by the agencies receiving those funds for control and removal of nonnative, invasive species on public lands.
(f) To ensure that the public has knowledge of and access to conservation lands, as defined in s. 253.034(2)(c), the department shall publish, update, and maintain a database of such lands where public access is compatible with conservation and recreation purposes.
1. By July 1, 2017, the database must be available to the public online and must include, at a minimum, the location, types of allowable recreational opportunities, points of public access, facilities or other amenities, restrictions, and any other information the department deems appropriate to increase public awareness of recreational opportunities on conservation lands. Such data must be electronically accessible, searchable, and downloadable in a generally acceptable format.
2. The department, through its own efforts or through partnership with a third-party entity, shall create an application downloadable on mobile devices to be used to locate state lands available for public access using the user’s locational information or based upon an activity of interest.
3. The database and application must include information for all state conservation lands to which the public has a right of access for recreational purposes. Beginning January 1, 2018, to the greatest extent practicable, the database shall include similar information for lands owned by federal and local governmental entities that allow access for recreational purposes.
4. By January 1 of each year, the department shall provide a report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives describing the percentage of public lands acquired under this chapter to which the public has access and the efforts undertaken by the department to increase public access to such lands.
(10)(a) Beginning July 1, 1999, the Legislature may appropriate funds annually to the department for payment in lieu of taxes to qualifying counties and local governments as defined in paragraph (b) for all actual tax losses incurred as a result of board of trustees acquisitions for state agencies under the Florida Forever program or the former Florida Preservation 2000 program.
(b) Payment in lieu of taxes shall be available:
1. To all counties that have a population of 150,000 or fewer. Population levels shall be determined pursuant to s. 11.031.
2. To all local governments located in eligible counties.
(c) If insufficient funds are available in any year to make full payments to all qualifying counties and local governments, such counties and local governments shall receive a pro rata share of the moneys available.
(d) The payment amount shall be based on the average amount of actual taxes paid on the property for the 3 years preceding acquisition. Applications for payment in lieu of taxes shall be made no later than January 31 of the year following acquisition. No payment in lieu of taxes shall be made for properties which were exempt from ad valorem taxation for the year immediately preceding acquisition.
(e) If property which was subject to ad valorem taxation was acquired by a tax-exempt entity for ultimate conveyance to the state under this chapter, payment in lieu of taxes shall be made for such property based upon the average amount of taxes paid on the property for the 3 years before its being removed from the tax rolls. The department shall certify to the Department of Revenue those properties that may be eligible under this provision. Once eligibility has been established, that county or local government shall receive annual payments for each tax loss until the qualifying county or local government exceeds the population threshold pursuant to this section.
(f) Payment in lieu of taxes pursuant to this subsection shall be made annually to qualifying counties and local governments after certification by the Department of Revenue that the amounts applied for are reasonably appropriate, based on the amount of actual taxes paid on the eligible property. With the assistance of the local government requesting payment in lieu of taxes, the state agency that acquired the land is responsible for preparing and submitting application requests for payment to the Department of Revenue for certification.
(g) If the board of trustees conveys to a local government title to any land owned by the board, any payments in lieu of taxes on the land made to the local government shall be discontinued as of the date of the conveyance.

For the purposes of this subsection, “local government” includes municipalities, the county school board, mosquito control districts, and any other local government entity which levies ad valorem taxes, with the exception of a water management district.

(11) Within 90 days after receiving a certified letter from the owner of a property on the priority list established pursuant to s. 259.105 objecting to the property being included in an acquisition project, where such property is a project or part of a project which has not been listed for purchase in the current year’s land acquisition work plan, the board of trustees shall delete the property from the list or from the boundary of an acquisition project on the list.
History.s. 8, ch. 79-255; s. 16, ch. 80-356; s. 5, ch. 81-35; s. 1, ch. 81-210; s. 165, ch. 81-259; s. 1, ch. 82-152; s. 2, ch. 83-80; s. 1, ch. 83-114; s. 10, ch. 84-330; s. 13, ch. 86-178; s. 6, ch. 86-294; s. 1, ch. 87-96; s. 1, ch. 88-387; s. 13, ch. 89-116; s. 1, ch. 89-276; s. 2, ch. 90-1; s. 8, ch. 90-217; s. 1, ch. 91-62; s. 5, ch. 91-420; s. 2, ch. 92-288; s. 45, ch. 93-206; s. 4, ch. 94-197; s. 1, ch. 94-212; s. 1, ch. 94-240; s. 65, ch. 94-356; s. 5, ch. 95-349; ss. 19, 20, ch. 95-430; s. 3, ch. 96-389; s. 19, ch. 96-420; s. 23, ch. 97-94; ss. 27, 29, ch. 97-153; s. 6, ch. 97-164; ss. 26, 38, ch. 98-46; s. 10, ch. 99-4; s. 34, ch. 99-13; ss. 28, 33, 53, ch. 99-228; s. 13, ch. 99-247; s. 20, ch. 99-292; s. 7, ch. 2000-170; s. 61, ch. 2000-171; s. 45, ch. 2001-61; s. 7, ch. 2002-2; s. 28, ch. 2002-402; s. 15, ch. 2003-6; s. 280, ch. 2003-261; s. 6, ch. 2003-394; s. 18, ch. 2004-5; ss. 42, 75, ch. 2004-269; s. 41, ch. 2005-71; ss. 31, 42, ch. 2006-26; s. 4, ch. 2006-231; s. 5, ch. 2008-5; s. 9, ch. 2008-229; s. 21, ch. 2009-21; s. 36, ch. 2013-15; s. 37, ch. 2014-53; s. 20, ch. 2015-229; s. 1, ch. 2016-1; s. 28, ch. 2016-10; s. 17, ch. 2016-233; s. 8, ch. 2020-4; s. 3, ch. 2023-169.
Note.Former s. 253.023.