Conservation effort lands two more pieces of the puzzle with purchases


Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 9:03 p.m.
The puzzle pieces are falling into place in Alachua County Forever's land conservation efforts.
County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of two conservation properties for a combined $4.1 million. The county bought the 643-acre Phifer land from the Alachua Conservation Trust and the 234-acre AP&E property from The Nature Conservancy.
The acquisitions are the seventh and eighth properties bought as part of the Alachua County Forever program. Voters approved the program in 2000, raising property taxes to fund $29 million in bonds to conserve land.
Phifer Flatwoods connects a wildlife corridor and protects land along the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. The AP&E property is the first land acquired in the county's top conservation priority: protecting land along Alachua County's northern border and the Santa Fe River.
Buying other border properties will be a major focus of conservation efforts in the coming months, said Brian Block, a senior field representative of The Nature Conservancy.
"We'll be spending more time and energy on river acquisition," he said.
The AP&E property is four miles west of Waldo at the intersection of county roads 225 and 1475. The Phifer land is located along State Road 20, halfway between Gainesville and Hawthorne and along the popular trail between those cities.
"There isn't a piece that's more visible that we're going to have," said Ramesh Buch, director of the Alachua County Forever program.
The Alachua Conservation Trust had bought the Phifer property in July from a Seattle-based-logging company, Plum Creek Timberlands. About 200 people gave loans and donations to ensure the land was protected from development, said Trust Project Manager Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson.
Turning around and selling the land to the county "enables us do the same thing again," he said.
The trust will now turn its attention to buying more land along the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, he said, as well as properties connecting nearby conservation lands to create wildlife corridors.
"We want to be able to protect as much of the rail trail as possible, but we also want to connect the wildlife corridor up to the north," he said.
Nathan Crabbe can be reached at 338-3176 or crabben@ gvillesun.com.

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