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Cabinet Eyes ‘Devil’s Garden’ Land Deal

Dan Conservation, Environment, Florida, Industry News Release

(NSF) — Nearly 6,500 acres of land, with the vast majority in the Devil’s Garden area south of Lake Okeechobee, are in line to be the state’s next Florida Forever conservation deals.

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Devil’s Garden Florida Forever Project
Courtesy Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — will be asked Tuesday to spend $14.625 million to acquire 5,804 acres in Hendry County that are part of the 82,995-acre tract known as the Devil’s Garden. Also, DeSantis and the Cabinet will consider spending $2.1 million for 638 acres of hunting land in Washington County in the Panhandle. Both parcels are on acquisition lists for the Florida Forever conservation program.

The state already owns or has agreed to purchase 33,690 acres of the Devil’s Garden, which is owned by agribusiness company Alico, Inc.

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The 5,804-acre parcel going before DeSantis and the Cabinet next week is used for cattle grazing and is considered a primary and secondary zone for the federally endangered Florida panther. A staff report said preservation of the land “will contribute to increased protection of Florida’s biodiversity at the species, natural community, and landscape levels.”

Last year, DeSantis and the Cabinet agreed to spend $14.775 million to buy 5,534 acres within the Devil’s Garden. The land in Washington County, owned by Washington Crossing LLC, borders the Choctawhatchee River and Pine Log Creek. The land, which would be managed by the Florida Forest Service, would provide opportunities for boating, hiking, camping and hunting and be used for Operation Outdoor Freedom events for disabled veterans. The state’s could recoup up to $1.1 million of the Washington County deal through a pending U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition grant.

Source: News Service of Florida