Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

SJRWMD Land Assessment Update

Last month I mentioned the fact that the St John's River Water Management District was conducting an assessment of all its land holdings with a view towards potentially identifying surplus lands and disposing of them.

On November 7,  I attended a meeting at the Volusia County Council Chambers with the Domroskis, several folks from West Volusia Audubon and David Hartgrove.  Mr Christensen of the SJRWMD gave a synopsis of the plan, its history and goals andante answered questions and listened to speakers voice opinions. 

The stated purpose of the assessment was to an acre by acre review of all the land inventory owned or co-owned by the SJRWMD to determine the conservation value of the land.  Then the task was to match the conservation value with one of four possible outcomes: Retain ownership; donate the land to the co-owners, e.g. the counties, keeping a conservation easement for the District; sell the land  keeping a conservation easement for the District; consider alternative uses such as cattle or peat mining; or selling the land outright. 

Of the approximately 600,000 acres owned by the District, the plan calls for retaining 93% of it.  The remainder would be disposed of in the manner I described above.  All money from sales would have to be used for buying more conservation lands. 

The impact of lands in Volusia County was primarily to donate the surplus to the County with the District keeping a conservation easement.  Two parcels are to be sold with the District keeping a conservation easement.

Of the crows of 35 or 40 people in the audience, everyone who spoke was negative about the plan.  There were people from several counties each with their areas of interest.  They were very vocal about the effects of the proposed conversions to conservation easement or outright sale of "surplus" lands would have on their areas. 

If you want more information, to see the plan and maps, go to their website.