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Frequently Asked Questions about Florida Conservation Lands
What is a conservation land?
In order for a property to be considered conservation land by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), a significant portion of the property must be undeveloped and retain most of the attributes one could expect it to have in its natural condition. In addition, the managing agency or organization must demonstrate a formal commitment to the conservation of the land in its natural condition.
What is the Florida Conservation Lands (FCL) database?
FNAI serves as the central repository for conservation lands information for the State. It collects, compiles, and standardizes data (including boundaries) from all public agencies and private organizations that acquire or manage lands for conservation purposes. FNAI’s FCL database tracks lands by management unit (e.g., state park, national forest) and lead managing agency. Data are updated 4 times a year at the end of each quarter. Funding is provided primarily by FL Department of Environmental Protection.
What is the difference between the managing agency and the owner? Are they always the same for a property?
The agency or organization responsible for managing a conservation land is not always the entity that owns the property. In some cases, there are multiple owners who each hold title to one or more parcels within the management unit or share ownership of a property. In other situations, the conservation land belongs to one agency and is leased to another for management.
In the FCL summary, acreages are counted once under the primary (lead) managing agency even though there may be several owners and/or managers. For this reason, total acres for some agencies may be higher than the acres to which they hold title and others may be lower.
What does the “Summary of Florida Conservation Lands” represent?
The summary is compiled from information in the FNAI Florida Conservation Lands database each February, and the acreages reported represent the total of all lands in the database at that point in time. Currently, the FCL database includes more than 2300 different management units ranging in size from Everglades National Park (over 1.5 million acres) to small local preserves < 1 acre. Together, they total more than 10 million acres.
By tracking properties according to lead managing agency, FNAI is able to account for overlapping boundaries and jurisdictions so that the acreage of each property is counted only once.
Acreages reported represent all lands within management unit boundaries, including any portions used for purposes other than conservation. Some lands are being actively restored to their former natural condition.
For the summary report, open water (submerged lands) within the boundaries of conservation lands is not included in final acreages.
Is a conservation lands database the same as a public lands database?
No (see below).
Do all public lands qualify as conservation lands?
No. Many public lands are dedicated to other uses (e. g., public schools, prisons, ball fields, government buildings, etc.). They are excluded from the FCL database.
Are all conservation lands public lands?
No. Some conservation lands are owned by private non-profit organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and Audubon of Florida. Most less-than-fee lands in the FCL database, although protected by conservation easements, are owned by private individuals or corporations.
What are less-than-fee lands?
Less-than-fee simple is the purchase of limited property rights (as opposed to fee simple, which is the purchase of lands outright). Acquiring land at less-than-fee simple means acquisition of an interest in the property which allows the purchasing agency or organization to conserve and protect resources on the property at less cost while keeping the land in private ownership. A conservation easement is placed on property acquired less-than-fee.
Less-than-fee acquisitions are an increasingly important part of land protection efforts in Florida. This acquisition method provides agencies and organizations a way to achieve specific conservation objectives on the land while keeping the land in the ownership and control of landowners for uses consistent with the conservation objectives.
Does FNAI track all properties acquired less-than-fee?
No. For a less-than-fee property to be tracked by FNAI, the conservation easement must be permanent (i.e., held “in perpetuity”) and regularly monitored by an agency or organization knowledgeable about conservation in order to assure protection of the natural resources.
Why are the US Department of Defense (DOD) properties included in the FCL database?
The US DOD is first and foremost dedicated to military readiness, and land management is subordinate to, and designed to support, this primary mission. However, US DOD manages large areas of some of the highest quality natural lands in the state and is a leader in maintenance of native ecosystems and rare species. Like other Federal agencies, the department has a mandate to follow requirements of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
What percentage of Florida’s conservation lands is considered wetlands?
Approximately 60% of all non-submerged lands in the FCL database are classified as wetlands (based on a land cover analysis using GIS).
Is the FCL data available to the public?
Yes, go to the FNAI website GIS page. The latest conservation lands data can be downloaded as a shape file (FLMA.shp) or a Google Earth file (FLMA.kmz). The FCL data can also be viewed and queried in an interactive map format without GIS software. The data files are updated 4 times a year at the end of each quarter.