Counties spend millions on acquiring endangered lands

06/17/2007 3:01 AM

08/28/2007 1:58 PM

In 1990, Miami-Dade County voters approved an ad valorum tax to buy Environmentally Endangered Lands before they slipped beneath the tracks of the bulldozer.

Another $40 million was approved in 2004 through the Building Better Communities Bond. That enabled the program to fund management of natural areas belonging to the Parks and Recreation Department as well as its own areas.

Nearly 18,000 acres has been purchased over the years in 48 tracts, says Emilie Young, program chief. In all, the EEL lands are valued at $80 million, but by leveraging its purchasing power through grants, the program has $25 million still in the bank.

Broward County approved its Land Preservation Bond Program in 2000. It has purchased 83 sites, totaling 850 acres, says Don Burgess, head of the county land preservation division. The county has spent $152 million of its $200 million allotment buying those lands and has $44 million still in the bank. Just recently, three beach-front parcels were approved, said Burgess, in the program that is ongoing.

Palm Beach County began its land acquisition program in 1991, with a bond that provided $100 million. Through the end of 2006, the country had protected 35,063 acres. Like Miami-Dade, Palm Beach County has a volunteer program to help restore the lands and manage them for public use.

Some 27 other counties in Florida make similar efforts to acquire and manage segments of endangered natural areas.

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