Conservation Easement Pioneer Brokers $7.75M Conservation Deal

As efforts to conserve sensitive rural land in Florida amid a construction boom continue, seasoned land broker Dean Saunders brokered a  $7.75 million conservation deal in Central East Florida.

Saunders, a national expert in conservation, has secured the future of 3,600 acres rich in biodiversity and necessary habitats for some of Florida’s most beloved wildlife.

“This transaction highlights how vital it is to have public funding available for conservation deals,” Mr. Saunders, Founder and Managing Director of Lakeland-based SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler. “As rural is increasingly developed to accommodate Florida’s growing population, Florida needs to secure a steady source of funding for conservation deals to ensure a healthy balance between development and conservation for years to come. Compensating landowners for choosing to conserve land is the best strategy to reach that balance.” 

The property, known as Abington Preserve, is located in Okeechobee County and is home to diverse species such as the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, sandhill cranes, gopher tortoises, wood storks, and the crested caracara.

Saunders assisted the seller in permanently preserving the land by means of conservation easements through the Florida Forever Project.

The Florida Forever Project is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program; a blueprint for conserving Florida’s natural and cultural heritage. Since the inception of the Florida Forever program in July 2001, the state has purchased more than 897,785 acres of land with approximately $3.3 billion, according to the Florida Office of Environmental Services.

During his time as a Florida Legislator two decades ago, Mr. Saunders created the conservation easement program to encourage Florida landowners to conserve sensitive land. A conservation easement is a legally binding agreement with a government agency or nonprofit land trust that rewards landowners who choose to limit development on their land. These easements are custom created to meet the personal and financial needs of the landowner while retaining private ownership. The goal is to preserve and protect ecological, historic or scenic resources.

In recent years, ranch owners have increasingly pursued conservation deals as Florida allocated fresh funding for conservation efforts. Case in point, the state recently allocated more than $56 million to acquire seven properties across the state that will be designated for conservation. The seven parcels total nearly 20,000 acres, more than 98% of which are within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a recently designated network of connected lands that are crucial for wildlife habitat. The Abington Preserve is one of the seven parcels.

Since its conception as a land brokerage in 1996, SVN | Saunders Ralston Dantzler has held a passion for protecting Florida’s natural ecosystems. He has been at the forefront of this mission, helping landowners protect their land from future development.




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