County officials laud decision to fund conservation program


Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 6:40 a.m.

The decision by Gov. Charlie Crist Tuesday to spare the Florida Forever land conservation program was welcomed by Alachua County officials, who feared they would lose a $3 million state grant for the planned purchase of 3,000 acres north of Micanopy along with future funding.

Ramesh Buch, manager of the Alachua County Forever program, said the decision to keep Florida Forever funding will enable the county to continue to leverage money it raises through local taxes to get even greater amounts of state money.

"The state has been our biggest partner and for every dollar we have spent locally, the state has spent $2," Buch said. "I know it was a difficult decision ... and I think he understood that land conservation is important to Floridians."

If all the state money is restored, the county can go through with the purchase of the 3,000-acre Whitehurst tract, which will be its single largest purchase through Alachua County Forever, Buch said.

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