State buys undeveloped land in Northwest Florida

Florida has acquired 578 acres of undeveloped land in Gulf County through the Florida Forever land-preservation program, the Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday.

The agency said the acquisition of the property, which is within the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay watershed, will expand on the state’s recent 20,168-acre addition to what is known as the Lake Wimico tract.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein said the deal protects drinking water supplies and connects wildlife habitat.

“This land is one of the most undeveloped, diverse, productive and economically important natural systems in the southeastern United States,” Valenstein said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — agreed to pay $720,000 for the property during a May 28 conference call.

The land, part of the St. Joe Timberland Florida Forever project, will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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