Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

If the state wants to acquire natural land, it can tap into a real surplus

The state has proposed selling as “surplus” a parcel near the southern tip of the Withlacoochee State Trail near Trilby to raise money for other conservation purchases.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times (2012)

The state has proposed selling as “surplus” a parcel near the southern tip of the Withlacoochee State Trail near Trilby to raise money for other conservation purchases.

The Withlacoochee State Trail almost perfectly fits its common description as a "linear state park."

It is long, straight and very narrow — at least until the very southern end, near Trilby, where a 1.7-acre parcel is attached like a feather on an arrow.

Walk the trail past this property and you see a house, a fringe of woods and a small chunk of pasture.

If the state goes through with its plan to unload this lot as part of a program to "surplus" $50 million worth of natural land, it might bring another house or two, maybe a few horses — nothing that would interfere with the experience of walking or riding on the 46-mile-long trail.

So, does the marginal environmental value of this parcel — the only candidate for surplusing in Hernando or Pasco counties — mean that the entire program is acceptable?

No, it doesn't mean that at all. In fact, this is very clearly a bad idea.

Not necessarily for Tallahassee politicians, who get to offer conservative voters tangible proof of shrinking government, while appealing to conservation-minded residents with the promise that the proceeds will be spent on acquiring other environmentally sensitive land.

And selling off these parcels wouldn't be such a bad idea on a small scale.

The Trilby lot is proof that there are a few properties that have more value on the market than as habitat or recreational land.

The problem is, there's not $50 million worth of land that fits this description. Not even close to that amount. Probably not even half that amount.

We know that because there are now a total of 4,000 acres on the list of possible surplus properties, and 2,600 of these acres are in the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area in the Green Swamp in Polk County.

All in all, it's difficult to image that the state could find a more worthy chunk of environmental property to buy with the money raised from selling this one.

It provides recreation opportunities, pure water for the aquifer and the four rivers that flow out of the Green Swamp, prime wildlife habitat and an underpass that allows wildlife to cross Interstate 4, with plans to build more crossings.

"There is absolutely no justification for surplusing" this land, said Marian Ryan, the Sierra Club's Florida conservation chairwoman.

Actually, there is a justification; it just has nothing to do with environmental protection. This land has plenty frontage on I-4 and is near the U.S. 27 commercial corridor.

It's the kind of property you need to reach that dream sum of $50 million.

But the state doesn't have to pursue that dream so recklessly. Economists are projecting that in fiscal year 2014, state revenues will exceed expenses by $845 million.

Gov. Rick Scott says he wants to give most of this money back to taxpayers.

But if he or anyone else in Tallahassee has a true interest in protecting natural Florida, that's the real surplus.

If the state wants to acquire natural land, it can tap into a real surplus 09/16/13 [Last modified: Monday, September 16, 2013 9:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Hernando County Sheriff's Office: Deputies shoot suicidal woman who brandished shotgun

    Crime

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff's deputies shot a woman they believed to be suicidal after she pointed a shotgun at them Sunday, according to a police report.

  2. Trump administration disbands federal advisory committee on climate change

    National

    WASHINGTON - The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government's climate analysis into long-term planning.

    President Donald Trump. [Associated Press]
  3. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) with starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) after the top of the seventh inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries

    Bucs

    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  5. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week

    Bucs

    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]