Florida Leaders Visit Red Hills Conservation Florida Forever Project

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein joined Tall Timbers’ staff on October 9, 2020, for a tour of private lands included in the Red Hills Conservation Florida Forever Project.

Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis (at left) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Noah Valenstein (at right).

Shane Wellendorf, Conservation Coordinator at Tall Timbers, was excited to help host the tour, as he simultaneously works with the state on the possibility of moving forward with the purchase of conservation easements on portions of Red Hills Conservation Project lands. “It’s great to have the opportunity to get Florida’s leadership out on these lands, to see the conservation value and legacy of long-term land stewardship first hand,” explained Wellendorf.

The Red Hills Conservation project was placed on the Florida Forever list in 2019, and includes 16,909 acres from three properties. Tall Timbers helped prepare the application and is working with the landowner and the state to facilitate the purchase of conservation easements, as funding becomes available through the Florida Forever program.  This work aligns with Tall Timbers’ strategic goal to permanently protect land in large blocks in the Red Hills and Albany regions, and to compete for conservation dollars to help make that happen when landowners are not in the legal (such as land in a family trust), or financial position to utilize a fully donated conservation easement.

“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,” said CFO Jimmy Patronis.

Tall Timbers has long worked with coalitions of partner organizations to advocate for public funding options, to increase the pace of land conservation in Florida and Georgia. The Tall Timbers Board of Trustees supported both the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment in 2014, and the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Amendment in 2018.  These efforts help land conservation in both states and now have the opportunity for direct assistance in the Red Hills region.

“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.”

DEP Secretary Valenstein highlighted the importance of coordination to deliver conservation outcomes. “Land conservation has a far-reaching impact on virtually every component of our environment and communities. 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.”

For more information on the Red Hills Conservation Project, visit https://floridadep.gov/sites/default/files/FLDEP_DSL_OES_FF_RedHillsConservation.pdf

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