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Hays says he screwed up on government conservation lands estimate

Sen. Alan Hays asked for a reporter's notebook to write down his conservation land figures on Wednesday. On Thursday he acknowledged there were errors in the estimate. Photo by Bruce Ritchie.

Sen. Alan Hays on Thursday said there were math errors with figures he compiled on the amount of government conservation lands in Florida.

"When I added it up I screwed up," he said.

Hays, R-Umatialla and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, said Wednesday that 16.4 million acres, or 47.5 percent of Florida, is owned by federal state and local governments. 

That differed from the 9.4 million acres, or 27 percent, reported by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, a nonprofit organzation at Florida State University that receives state funding to provide an annual update on conservation lands.

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Hays said he added together figures for categories of state lands that caused some land to be counted twice.

That accounted for nearly 4.3 million acres more of state land in the total reported by Hays.

In addition, Adam Blalock, a House subcommittee staff director who provided figures to Hays, acknowledged that he twice counted 1.4 million acres of water management district lands.

Blalock said he developed the figures so that he could handily recall government ownership of conservation lands. He said he didn't expect the figures to be cited.

"It wasn't meant to be this is the exact calculation of state lands by any means," he said.

On Wednesday, Hays' Senate subcommittee recommended no new revenue for the Florida Forever conservation land-buying program in fiscal year 2014-15 -- only $40 million from the sale of state nonconservation lands.

"Forty-seven and a half percent of Florida is owned in government conservation lands," Hays said on Wednesday. "How much do you think we need?"

When asked Thursday whether the subcommittee recommendation was based on the incorrect figures, Hays declined to comment and said he would make a statement next week.

"I'm not going to make up a number," Hays said. "I want to know the facts, that's what I want to know -- how much land total is owned by government?"

There were other differences between the numbers used by Hays and Blalock and those cited by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory but they could not be fully investigated on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula and chairman of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, recommended $30 million in new revenue for Florida Forever, the same amount requested by Gov. Rick Scott

Both the House and Scott recommended $40 million from the sale of nonconservation lands as requested by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Hays said last year he thinks the state owns too much land. He is sponsor of SB 1398 which would restrict state and local purchases of lands outside of designated "areas of critical state concern."

Related Research:
* March 19, 2014 House document provided by Hays reflecting government ownership of Florida land
* February 2014 "Summary of Conservation Lands," by Florida Natural Areas Inventory

Reporter Bruce Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

 

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