Last November Polk County voters overwhelmingly approved a grassroots effort to resume purchase of environmentally important lands.
The tax, which is projected to generate an estimated $11.3 million in the first year it takes effect beginning Oct. 1, will be used to purchase land or conservation easements to protect land from development.
Which lands will be recommended to the County Commission will be based on a review by a technical advisory committee of environmental experts and a citizen committee appointed earlier this year by commissioners.
The citizen committee called the Conservation Lands Acquisition Selection Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet next on Oct 11 in the County Commission chambers in Bartow.,
County officials announced this week the formal application process for landowners will open Aug.1.
The criteria for acquisition involves securing land that protects wildlife and water resources, can be managed cost-effectively and can provide public recreation where appropriate.
Many recent state purchases, which in the past involved partnerships with local environmental lands programs, have involved conservation easement of ranches within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a statewide conceptual network designed to allow movement of wide-ranging species such as Florida panthers and Florida black bears and to provide buffers along key streams across Florida’s remaining undeveloped landscape.
However, there has also been a push by conservationists to also seek higher-quality sites that include more native habitat rather than pasturelands as a priority.
The emphasis of the campaign to pass last year’s referendum emphasized the need to purchase lands in the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern, the Peace River corridor, the Lake Wales Ridge and the headwaters of the Everglades in the Kissimmee River Basin. In addition, there was an emphasis of trying to acquire land that would connect existing conservation lands to avoid fragmentation.
To apply for consideration to participate in the program, go to https://polknature.com/about-us.