LAKELAND, FL, October 12, 2020 — Dean Saunders, ALC, CCIM, founder, managing director and senior advisor of SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate, brokered the sale of a conservation property to the State of Florida this week for $43 million. The property, called The Bluffs of St. Teresa, is a 17,080-acre tract in North Florida situated on the Gulf of Mexico. Saunders listed the property on behalf of Ochlockonee Timberlands, LLC. He worked closely with The Nature Conservancy to negotiate the sale to the state, and the environmental organization donated $2.25 million toward the conservation purchase. Additionally, the United States Department of Defense contributed $2.19 million. Saunders also recently brokered several conservation easements totaling $8,344,431.
Accessible to the Big Bend area of Florida’s eastern panhandle and sharing a contiguous border with Bald Point State Park, the conservation of The Bluffs of St. Teresa is a vital component of environmental protection in the region. The property creates a contiguous, protected corridor between Bald Point State Park and Tate’s Hell State Forest, including the Apalachicola National Forest, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the Ochlockonee River State Park. Beyond its essential location, The Bluffs of St. Teresa is one of the most extensive remaining tracts of undeveloped land on the Gulf Coast and features more than 17 miles of waterfront, interior lakes, dunes and bluffs.
“This was a rare opportunity to preserve an absolute gem of a property for posterity for the citizens of Florida,” Saunders said. “It was an honor and privilege to work on a project of such significance alongside others who made conserving The Bluffs of St. Teresa a priority for the state.”
Saunders worked with numerous entities to negotiate the sale, which is the state’s largest conservation purchase in over a decade. Those involved in the project include:
- Lindsay Stevens, JD, AICP, Land Protection Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy
- Callie DeHaven, Director of The Florida Department of Environmental (DEP) Service’s Division of State Land
- David Clark, former Assistant Secretary of the Florida DEP and, more recently, the former Deputy Chief of Staff to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
“The protection of the Bluffs marks a conservation milestone,” the Florida DEP stated. “With benefits to climate resilience, preservation of rivers and lakes that are critical to water quality, quantity and the health of the region’s aquaculture, and the safeguarding of habitat needed by countless native and migrating species.”
The Florida DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks and the FDACS Florida Forest Service will manage the land going forward.
Recent Conservation Easement Sales
In addition to the outright sale of The Bluffs of St. Teresa to the State of Florida, Saunders also recently brokered several conservation easement sales.
About 3,465 acres of Hall’s Tiger Bay Ranch, a property in DeSoto County, was conserved for $5,753,157. The property is a mosaic of pine flatwoods and dry and wet prairie. Hall’s Tiger Bay Ranch is adjacent to the 29,000-acre Bright Hour Ranch conservation easement secured by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFMD), and further extends this conservation corridor. The Hall’s Tiger Bay Ranch conservation easement was purchased by the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resource Planning Service (NRCS). A second easement for another 402 acres is planned to close by the end of the year with the same parties to bring the total acreage conserved at Hall’s Tiger Bay Ranch to 3,900.
AVT Ranch is 713 acres in Polk County in the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern (ACSC). Saunders negotiated a conservation easement on the property for $1,107,000. The ACSC program was created by the Florida Environmental Land and Water Management Act of 1972 to protect environmental resources of major statewide significance from uncontrolled development. The Green Swamp was one of the first areas Florida designated as an ACSC. Of the Green Swamp’s 560,000 acres, more than 300,000 fall within the ACSC due to the swamp’s water resources’ quality and quantity. The easement was purchased under the state’s Florida Forever conservation program.
S.Y. Hartt Ranch is 748 rural acres. Saunders secured a conservation easement under RFLPP. Partnering with the Avon Park Bombing Range, RFLPP purchased the conservation easement for $1,474,274. This sale is the fifth conservation easement Saunders has brokered for the Hartt family in the last ten years.
About Dean Saunders, ALC, CCIM
As an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) and a member of the Florida Legislature from 1992 to 1996, Dean spearheaded the action to establish the Green Swamp Land Authority. As a result of his efforts, the very first Florida state agency was created to purchase development rights from landowners. His work was instrumental in the successful passing of the law requiring Florida state agencies to purchase a specific number of conservation easements each and every year. Selling your land as a Florida conservation easement is recommended to real estate clients when the property has the qualified features, meets guidelines, and the landowner desires a way to keep the property from major development for generations to come.