Jacksonville, Fla., June 27, 2019 – North Florida Land Trust is asking for the community to show their support for preserving Fish Island by reaching out to Florida Cabinet members. The 57-acre property is located on the Intracoastal waterway immediately adjacent to the 312 bridge onto Anastasia Island. NFLT has been working to preserve the land for months and successfully negotiated an assignable option contract with the owners. On July 23, the Governor’s Cabinet will meet in Tallahassee to decide if the State will accept the contract and acquire Fish Island through the Florida Forever program.

“The citizens spoke out about wanting to preserve this environmentally sensitive land which is also an important part of Florida history and now we are asking the community to let Florida’s Cabinet know how important it is to them to preserve Fish Island,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT.

The project will be presented to the Florida Cabinet for their consideration by Noah Valenstein, Secretary of Environmental Protection. McCarthy will be making a supporting presentation to the Cabinet as will State Senator Rob Bradley and Vice Mayor of St. Augustine Leanna Freeman. Freeman has been working to protect this property for approximately 14 years and her presence at the Cabinet meeting is in solidarity with the St. Augustine community’s support.

“We are deeply honored to have Vice Mayor Freeman and Senator Bradley join us in this event,” said McCarthy. “Senator Bradley led the effort to fund Florida Forever in 2018 and fought tirelessly for the $100 million it received. That is the money that will be used to protect this property. The Senator has been a strong supporter of our efforts to protect valuable historic and environmentally sensitive land in north Florida. Without his leadership, this effort would not be possible.”
NFLT began private discussions with the owners of Fish Island late last year. The state and the nonprofit then did their due diligence and appraised the property before submitting an offer letter to the owners. After extensive negotiations between NFLT, the seller, the seller’s bank and the state, the offer was accepted.

“We stepped in to help put this deal together because that is what we do day in and day out,” said McCarthy. “We work with willing sellers and with the city, state, National Guard or other agency to find a way to reach an agreement to preserve lands. We have developed a great relationship with the folks at the Division of State Lands. We bring them good projects, do the negotiating and perform a lot of the due diligence.”

St. Augustine Commissioners recently unanimously voted to approve management of Fish Island if the state agrees to buy the property. Fish Island is a healthy maritime hammock forest and preservation will help avoid water quality impacts to the Matanzas River. The island also has historic significance. It was the site of one of the plantations that were integral to St. Augustine’s history and still has some ruins and other evidence of its historic use.

More information on NFLT’s campaign to preserve Fish Island can be found at https://www.nflt.org/preservefishisland/. The nonprofit is still looking for contributions to help with offsetting the hard cost of the preservation of the property and the hours of staff time expended.

The community can contact the Florida Cabinet to express their support for funding Fish Island either by email, phone or by mail at the following:

Governor, 850-717-9239
Ron Desantis: Ron.Desantis@MyFlorida.com
Cabinet Aide, Beau Beaubien: beau.beaubien@eog.myflorida.com
Executive Office of
Governor Ron DeSantis
400 S Monroe St
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Attorney General, 850-245-0145
Ashley Moody, Website form for Email
Cabinet Aide, Erin Sumpter: Erin.Sumpter@myfloridalegal.com
Office of the Attorney General
State of Florida
PL-01 The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050

Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 850-617-7700
Nikki Fried: Nikki.Fried@FreshFromFlorida.com
Cabinet Aide, Kyle W. Troop: Kyle.Troop@FreshFromFlorida.com
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Plaza Level 10, The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800

Chief Financial Officer, 850-413-2925
Jimmy Patronis: CFO.Patronis@MyFloridaCFO.com
Cabinet Aide, Robert Tornillo: Robert.Tornillo@MyFloridaCFO.com
Chief Financial Officer
Florida Department of Financial Services
200 East Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0301

Secretary of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 850-245-2118
Noah Valenstein: noah.valenstein@dep.state.fl.us
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000