In the spring of 2009, the Florida Legislature passed HB 7157, creating §196.26 Florida Statutes: Exemption for real property dedicated in perpetuity for conservation purposes. For you this means there’s now an opportunity to protect environmentally sensitive lands while keeping tax dollars in your wallets.
Starting January 1, 2010, owners of non-commercial land of 40 acres or more that is dedicated in perpetuity for conservation purposes may file for a 100% exemption. If the dedicated 40+ acres is commercial property it may be eligible for a 50% exemption. Dedicated in perpetuity means the land is encumbered by an irrevocable, perpetual conservation easement. These easements survive sales, inheritances, and even tax deed sales.
Buildings and other improvements on exempt land will be assessed separately. If the commercial use of the land is agricultural, the owner must comply with best management practices.
Easements may be granted to government agencies or to a charitable organization whose purpose is to protect natural, scenic or open space; assuring availability of agricultural, forests, recreational or open space use; or protecting natural resources.
If your land contains less than 40 contiguous acres, and meets any of the criteria listed at the bottom, it may qualify for exemption if the Acquisition and Restoration Council, (a State agency), determines that the land fulfills a clear state conservation policy and yields a significant public benefit. You should contact the ARC at www.floridaforever.org and click on the quick link to the Acquisition and Restoration Council to request further information.
In order to be eligible for the exemption an owner must apply to the Property Appraiser by March 1, and must include a copy of the recorded document establishing a conservation easement. Recorded easements must include documentation of the values to be protected and a management plan.
- The Department of Revenue website has an application form. Click here to access.
- The Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of compiling a list of conservation organizations.
- The Acquisition and Restoration Council, (ARC), is in the process of developing procedures to oversee lands of less than 40 acres.
Acquisition and Restoration Council Exemption Criteria for Property of Less Than 40 Acres
The Council must give particular consideration to land that:
- Contains natural sinkholes or springs that serve a water recharge or production function.
- Contains a unique geological feature.
- Provides habitat for endangered or threatened species.
- Provides nursery habitat for marine and estuarine species.
- Provides protection or restoration of vulnerable coastal areas.
- Preserves natural shoreline habitat.
- Provides retention of natural open space in otherwise densely built-up areas.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recommends contacting the Land Trust Alliance, a national group of organizations certified to manage conservation easements, for information on organizations operating in Southeast Florida. Their website is www.landtrustalliance.org.