The State of Florida is considering buying a conservation easement on 24,000 acres in Glades County at a cost to taxpayers of $23 million. The sale of this conservation easement would not actually conserve the land, but subject it to severe environmental harm.
A conservation easement, in principle, is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values, thus protecting the land and leaving it in its natural state, while providing habitat for birds and wildlife. However, this proposed agreement would allow the following changes to the land owned by agri-giant Lykes Brothers, Inc.:
· Drilling for oil and gas, including the construction of roads, oil rigs and pipe lines on any part of the land
· Construction of reservoirs for holding and treating polluted agricultural water– water that would come mainly from Lykes Brothers Inc. agricultural operations
· Plowing under and converting any part of the land, including all of the natural areas, to high-intensity vegetable farming (truck and row crops)
· Construction of commercial well fields that would be authorized to withdraw at least three billion gallons per year
"Apparently the Lykes brothers are creating their own definition of 'conservation.' Subjecting the lands of Glades County to this type of development will cause irreparable harm," said David Guest, attorney for Earthjustice. "This isn't a conservation easement, it's a development permit and the taxpayers are paying the bill. It's brazen attempt by Lykes Brothers Inc. to raid Florida's land preservation fund of $23 million."