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Land Acquisition
Spring Flowing into Withlacoochee RiverThe acquisition and management of land interests encompass a set of tools to achieve the District's water resource objectives. The District's Florida Forever Work Plan (Work Plan) guides the land acquisition program by setting goals, performance measures, criteria, priorities, and funding strategies. Each year, the Work Plan is updated and accepted by the District Governing Board, following a public hearing, and included in the District's Consolidated Annual Report.

Goals and Performance Measures
The majority of District-owned fee and conservation easement lands are located along rivers and streams, headwaters, and water recharge areas. Public ownership of these lands and conservation easements provides a host of benefits including:
  • Preserving and restoring springs and surrounding areas to protect and improve surface and groundwater;
  • Preserving floodplain areas to maintain storage capacity, attenuate floodwaters, and mitigate flood risk;
  • Preserving natural buffers along water bodies where adjacent uses have a high potential to degrade surface water quality;
  • Protecting groundwater quality by maintaining low intensity land uses;
  • Providing land for dispersed water storage, restoration, and water resource development projects; and
  • Preserving and/or restoring natural communities to support or enhance populations of native species.

The land acquisition program is strictly voluntary — all land acquisition projects are negotiated with willing sellers within the constraints of appraised market value. Land owners desiring to offer lands for sale may submit a Property Offer Form to the District. Lands offered for sale are evaluated by District staff, reviewed by the Governing Board Lands Committee, considered by the Governing Board, and included in the District's land acquisition process if approved by the Board.

Next, staff conducts a detailed assessment of the lands, including inspection, preliminary title examination and appraisal. Following detailed assessment, staff may make an offer and commence negotiations with the land owner. If negotiations are successful, then the Governing Board considers acquisition of the lands. If approved by the Governing Board, staff and the District's Legal Counsel works to close the transaction.

Payments in Lieu of Taxes
When the District purchases lands in fee simple (all ownership rights), the lands are taken off the county ad valorem tax roll. The Legislature established a payment in lieu of taxes program in 1992 to reimburse local governments for the loss of revenue. To qualify for this program, a county in which the District has purchased land must have a population of less than 150,000. Subject to the approved budget, payments are made each year to qualifying counties for the previous year's taxes.