Volume 3 Number 47
November 20, 2006

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Acquisition of almost 4,500 acres will help preserve springs and wildlife
Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet today approved the purchase of 4,471 acres near Silver Springs as part of the Florida First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever project.  A partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Marion County, the purchase from Avatar Properties, Inc. will place the land in conservation and protect the water quality of Silver Springs.

“Through this public-private partnership, the State is acquiring a critical piece of property near Silver Springs, protecting water quality in one of the largest artesian springs in the world,” said Governor Bush. “Silver Springs is a part of Florida’s natural and cultural heritage and this purchase protects a part of Florida’s history in perpetuity.”

TNC will purchase the property from Avatar Properties, Inc., and the State will then acquire the property from TNC in two phases. The first phase will be purchased by the end of this year, approximately 2,677 acres, and the remaining 1,793 acres will be purchased next fiscal year. To aid the purchase, Marion County is contributing $2.5 million.

“Silver Springs is a popular destination for tourists and residents alike and is a unique part of Florida’s cultural history,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Colleen M. Castille. “Today’s vote will protect almost 4,500 acres near the springs from development, preserving habitat and water quality for future generations to enjoy.”

This acquisition preserves habitat for rare and endangered species, including the bald eagle, Florida black bear and gopher tortoise. With 13 known sinkholes, the area acts as a pristine recharge area for one of the largest first magnitude springs in the nation. In addition, Silver Springs has served as the setting for the “Sea Hunt” television series starring Lloyd Bridges and many feature films, including “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

“We are proud to be of assistance to the state in acquiring this important geologic and historic portion of Silver Springs,” said State Director of The Nature Conservancy, Victoria Tschinkel.

The Florida First Magnitude Springs Florida Forever project focuses on land near Florida’s first magnitude springs that discharge more than 100 cubic feet of water per second. Florida’s springs, scattered through northern and central Florida, draw from the Floridan Aquifer which is the primary source of drinking water. The springs, with clear, continuously flowing waters, are among Florida’s most important natural resources and are famous tourist attractions.

“This historic purchase is a crucial step toward protecting the magnificent springs that are such an important part of our history and so vital to our water supply,” said Marion County Commission Chairman Jim Payton. “Marion County is delighted to be part of the partnership that made this happen.”

The Florida Springs Initiative, established by Governor Jeb Bush in 2001, is the first comprehensive, coordinated plan to restore and protect Florida’s more than 700 freshwater springs. Last year the Florida Springs Initiative set aside more than $300,000 to protect spring ecosystems, water quality and flow within Florida’s award-winning state park system.

The 10-year, $3 billion Florida Forever program established by Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Legislature conserves environmentally sensitive land, restores waterways and preserves important cultural and historical resources. For more information, visit www.FloridaForever.org