County to Acquire More Conservation Land By Al Everson The West Volusia Beacon
In a time when Florida’s population is surging and cities and suburbs are spreading into wilderness areas, the Volusia County Council is poised to partner with state agencies to shield more acreage from development.
Following the passage of the 2020 referendum to renew the Volusia Forever program for another 20 years, the County Council on April 5 approved a list of properties for purchase.
This is, in effect, the county’s action plan for expanding watersheds and wildlife habitat. As matters now stand, the county may add almost 10,000 acres to the main and central conservation corridor, as well as adding endangered tracts along or close to waterways on Volusia’s east and west sides.
“You have 15 properties that are going on the A-list,” Resource Stewardship Director Brad Burbaugh told the County Council. “We’ve got a good mix of properties.”
The A-list denotes higher-priority environmental lands, as recommended by the Volusia Forever Advisory Committee. Negotiations will now begin between county officials and the owners of these properties.
There is also a B-list, with three properties that may also be of interest to the county, but are deemed to be less critical or lacking in connectivity to other environmental parcels already in public ownership or under conservation easements.
Of the 15 tracts on the A-list, 10 may be “fee simple” purchases, meaning outright public ownership of the lands, using Volusia Forever funds combined with state cash to buy the properties to preserve them in their natural condition.
The other five properties may be open for conservation easements, meaning the county would leave the lands in private ownership, but purchase the development rights. For example, an agricultural easement would allow the landowner to continue farming, including livestock production or harvesting timber, but the land may not be transformed into a residential subdivision or a commercial center.
When the county buys environmentally sensitive land, it usually has a state funding partner, such as the St. Johns River Water Management District or the Department of Environmental Protection.