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State land buy saves rain forest

The state's purchase of a $3.4-million, 58-acre tract of the North Key Largo Hammocks will preserve the largest tropical rain forest left in North America, an environmental group said Monday.

The Department of Natural Resources' approval of the Carysfort tract completes 70 percent of the North Key Largo project, at the top of the agency's list of lands to buy with Preservation 2000 bond proceeds.

The land had been scheduled to become a condominium development.

"The purchase of this land has been a top priority for the state for a decade," said Gov. Lawton Chiles.

The Nature Conservancy said the purchase would help protect several endangered species, including the American crocodile and Schaus swallowtail butterfly.

The Preservation 2000 program is a 10-year, $300-million-a-year program using bond proceeds to buy and preserve Florida's environmentally sensitive land.

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