Florida hunters and anglers are being encouraged to contact their state legislators to protest tentative plans by at least two state water management districts to sell thousands of acres of public hunting and fishing lands to private buyers as part of a cost-cutting agenda imposed by Gov. Rick Scott.
The South Florida Water Management District (SoftMud) and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SwiftMud) are both considering selling, donating or trading land intended for environmental restoration or water storage to private buyers to meet Scott's mandate that they slash spending by 30 percent this fiscal year.
The agencies are two of five statewide water management districts that are collectively responsible for maintaining more than 5.5 million acres of publicly accessible conservation lands. Although the districts occasionally sell "surplus" land, Scott is requiring each district conduct a comprehensive evaluation of its land holdings.
SoftMud owns nearly 1.5 million acres spread across roughly 10,000 square miles in all or part of 16 counties from Orlando to the Keys, including 6,000 acres of hunting land on 25 public wildlife management areas.
Among areas the agency may sell is a 209-acre parcel in Cutler Bay, used by anglers as a public access onto Biscayne Bay .
SwiftMud owns nearly a half-million acres in 16 counties, with property from Citrus County to Charlotte County along the Gulf Coast. More than 132,000 acres of Swiftmud lands are available for hunting as wildlife management areas.
Thus far, Swiftmud has evaluated 261,000 acres in 10 counties and identified 1,276 acres in 26 parcels as potential surplus sale-fodder lands.
Outdoorsmen could potentially lose access to lands now open to the public.
"A lot of it is good wildlife habitat," Drew Martin of the Sierra Club told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "You don't want to lose all of this habitat."
“Are we really going to get into the business of the South Florida Water Management District selling land fronting Biscayne Bay to a private developer?’’ asked Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida, in an interview with the Miami Herald.
For more, go to:
-- FLORIDA : Hunter Access Involved in Meeting of the South Florida Water Management District
-- Water district considers selling public land
-- Water managers weigh putting South Florida lands up for sale
-- Florida Water Management District May Sell Off Conservation Land
-- Water district plans to sell conservation land