(1) The department, on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, may allocate moneys to acquire perpetual, less-than-fee interest in land, to enter into agricultural protection agreements, and to enter into resource conservation agreements for the following public purposes:
(a) Promotion and improvement of wildlife habitat;
(b) Protection and enhancement of water bodies, aquifer recharge areas, wetlands, and watersheds;
(c) Perpetuation of open space on lands with significant natural areas; or
(d) Protection of agricultural lands threatened by conversion to other uses.
(2) To achieve the purposes of this act, beginning no sooner than July 1, 2002, and every year thereafter, the department may accept applications for project proposals that: (a) Purchase conservation easements, as defined in s. 704.06.
(b) Purchase rural-lands-protection easements pursuant to this act.
(c) Fund resource conservation agreements pursuant to this act.
(d) Fund agricultural protection agreements pursuant to this act.
(3) Rural-lands-protection easements shall be a perpetual right or interest in agricultural land which is appropriate to retain such land in predominantly its current state and to prevent the subdivision and conversion of such land into other uses. This right or interest in property shall prohibit only the following: (a) Construction or placing of buildings, roads, billboards or other advertising, utilities, or structures, except those structures and unpaved roads necessary for the agricultural operations on the land or structures necessary for other activities allowed under the easement, and except for linear facilities described in s. 704.06(11);
(b) Subdivision of the property;
(c) Dumping or placing of trash, waste, or offensive materials; and
(d) Activities that affect the natural hydrology of the land or that detrimentally affect water conservation, erosion control, soil conservation, or fish or wildlife habitat, except those required for environmental restoration; federal, state, or local government regulatory programs; or best management practices.
(4) Resource conservation agreements will be contracts for services which provide annual payments to landowners for services that actively improve habitat and water restoration or conservation on their lands over and above that which is already required by law or which provide recreational opportunities. They will be for a term of not less than 5 years and not more than 10 years. Property owners will become eligible to enter into a resource conservation agreement only upon entering into a conservation easement or rural lands protection easement.
(5) Agricultural protection agreements shall be for terms of 30 years and will provide payments to landowners having significant natural areas on their land. Public access and public recreational opportunities may be negotiated at the request of the landowner. (a) For the length of the agreement, the landowner shall agree to prohibit: 1. Construction or placing of buildings, roads, billboards or other advertising, utilities, or structures, except those structures and unpaved roads necessary for the agricultural operations on the land or structures necessary for other activities allowed under the easement, and except for linear facilities described in s. 704.06(11);
2. Subdivision of the property;
3. Dumping or placing of trash, waste, or offensive materials; and
4. Activities that affect the natural hydrology of the land, or that detrimentally affect water conservation, erosion control, soil conservation, or fish or wildlife habitat.
(b) As part of the agricultural protection agreement, the parties shall agree that the state shall have a right to buy a conservation easement or rural land protection easement at the end of the 30-year term. If the landowner tenders the easement for the purchase and the state does not timely exercise its right to buy the easement, the landowner shall be released from the agricultural agreement. The purchase price of the easement shall be established in the agreement and shall be based on the value of the easement at the time the agreement is entered into, plus a reasonable escalator multiplied by the number of full calendar years following the date of the commencement of the agreement. The landowner may transfer or sell the property before the expiration of the 30-year term, but only if the property is sold subject to the agreement and the buyer becomes the successor in interest to the agricultural protection agreement. Upon mutual consent of the parties, a landowner may enter into a perpetual easement at any time during the term of an agricultural protection agreement.
(6) Payment for conservation easements and rural land protection easements shall be a lump-sum payment at the time the easement is entered into.
(7) Landowners entering into an agricultural protection agreement may receive up to 50 percent of the purchase price at the time the agreement is entered into, and remaining payments on the balance shall be equal annual payments over the term of the agreement.
(8) Payments for the resource conservation agreements shall be equal annual payments over the term of the agreement.
(9) Easements purchased pursuant to this act may not prevent landowners from transferring the remaining fee value with the easement.
(10) The department, in consultation with the Department of Environmental Protection, the water management districts, the Department of Economic Opportunity, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, shall adopt rules that establish an application process, a process and criteria for setting priorities for use of funds consistent with the purposes specified in subsection (1) and giving preference to ranch and timber lands managed using sustainable practices, an appraisal process, and a process for title review and compliance and approval of the rules by the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund.
(11) If a landowner objects to having his or her property included in any lists or maps developed to implement this act, the department shall remove the property from any such lists or maps upon receipt of the landowner’s written request to do so.
(12) The department is authorized to use funds from the following sources to implement this act:
(a) State funds;
(b) Federal funds;
(c) Other governmental entities;
(d) Nongovernmental organizations; or
(e) Private individuals.
Any such funds provided shall be deposited into the Conservation and Recreation Lands Program Trust Fund within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and used for the purposes of this act.
(13) No more than 10 percent of any funds made available to implement this act shall be expended for resource conservation agreements and agricultural protection agreements.