The governor and Cabinet on Tuesday approved a pair of state conservation land purchases with Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson voting in opposition.
Bronson, who is leaving office later this year because of term limits, said in March he would vote against any additional land purchases other than conservation easements, which involve paying landowners not to develop their property.
Bronson said conservation easements are preferable to the state buying land because landowners continue paying taxes and producing agricultural products. Supporters of the state’s purchase program say conservation easements are good in some cases but outright purchases also are needed also to conserve land and provide public access.
On Tuesday, Bronson voted to pay $2.1 million to Fred and Jodie Hires for a conservation easement on 1,369 acres near Gothe State Forest in Levy County. But he voted against the purchase of a 106-acre addition to Etoniah Creek State Forest in Putnam Counthy and against adding 552 acres to Torreya State Park in Gadsden and Liberty Counties.
“I’m going to vote ‘no’ on buying any more state land when there are easement opportunities available,” Bronson said Tuesday. The Cabinet voted 3-1 to approve both additions.
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