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~Land will provide environmental, military buffering benefits~

TALLAHASSEE Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet today approved the purchase of 1,578 acres in Clay County that will provide conservation value and military buffering for Camp Blanding as part of a Forever Florida Project. 

The acquisition of this land is a collaborative effort between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Department of Defense. The total cost of the 1,578 acres is $2.1 million, with the state paying $600,000 and the U.S. Department of Defense paying $1.5 million. Federal funding is available through a cooperative agreement between DEP and the Army National Guard Bureau.

"By approving this land acquisition, you continue to ensure the local and state economy will thrive, you will ensure these sensitive lands are conserved and citizens will be able to use them and will also ensure that our Army National Guard and other military units will have the environment to properly train and prepare our military men and women to protect Florida and our nation," said Lt. Gov Jennifer Carroll at Thursday's Cabinet meeting.

“The purchase of land near Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, the premier National Guard training site in Florida, is a win for Florida and a win for our military,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “This land provides environmental protection benefits as well as a buffer to aid the military in its preparation to protect Floridians.”

Public acquisition of this project will contribute to the Florida Forever goals by increasing the protection of Florida’s biodiversity of species, the natural community and landscape as well as protecting, restoring and maintaining the quality and natural functions of land, water, and wetland systems of the state. There are four major blackwater streams from three major river basins originating within the Camp Blanding – Raiford Greenway project area, as well as several headwaters and tributaries. The purchase will also increase the amount of forestland necessary for continued natural resource management.

"Camp Blanding Joint Training Center is a major training environment for various local, state and federal organizations as well as the military, and we are grateful for the opportunity to continue preserving the natural habitat that surrounds it," said Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw Jr, Adjutant General of Florida. "We certainly appreciate working together with Camp Blanding's neighbors to enhance our Florida Forever goals."

This land will provide a natural buffer to Camp Blanding’s training center and allow soldiers and equipment the necessary training area, thereby limiting disruption to neighboring residents. It will limit development in the vicinity of Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, provide proper space for military ranges and ensure that Florida remains the most military friendly state in the country. The Florida Department of Military Affairs, Florida Armory Board will manage the property as a natural forested area.

“DEP and Camp Blanding have been important partners with the District in our work to protect water resources in north Florida,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Hans G. Tanzler III. “This property will provide protection of water quality in the area and may also have a future in enhancing public water supplies.”

This is the second acquisition in recent months that aids the Department in fulfilling its mission to buffer military installations and provide environmental benefits to Florida. In December, Florida acquired a conservation easement on Seven Runs Creek as part of a Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement. That 2,336 acre parcel of Seven Runs Creek will provide an environmentally protected connection, in perpetuity, between Eglin Air Force base and the Choctawhatchee River Water Management Area,