About ACT - Our Mission & History
The mission of Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) is to protect the natural, historic, scenic and recreational resources in and around Alachua County, Florida. ACT protects land through purchase, donation, and conservation easements.
What We Do
Alachua Conservation Trust is a local, non-profit land trust that works with landowners to protect our great places. Since its incorporation in 1988, ACT has facilitated approximately 14,000 acres of public land purchases and private conservation easements. A few of our accomplishments are:
- Prairie Creek Preserve on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail (368 acres)
- Lake Tuscawilla Preserve near Micanopy (379 acres)
- Retirement Home for Horses conservation easement (245 acres)
- Phifer Flatwoods on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail (643 acres)
- Blues Creek Ravine near San Felasco Hammock (163 acres)
- Saarinen Preserve near Jonesville (79 acres)
- Suwannee River Water Management District Small Parcel Acquisitions (more than 1,000 acres)
- Historic Haile Homestead (acquisition, building restoration, and site work)
- Watermelon Pond CARL Proposal (more than 4,800 acres)
- Additions to San Felasco Hammock State Preserve (more than 880 acres)
- Additions to Paynes Prairie State Preserve (more than 2,460 acres)
- Hogtown Creek Greenway (more than 900 acres)
- Newnan’s Lake - Gumroot Swamp St. Johns River Water Mgmt. District purchases (720 acres)
- Prairie Creek St. Johns River Water Mgmt. District purchases (more than 230 acres)
- Various Conservation Easements (totaling more than 1800 acres)
A Brief History
Celebrating Twenty Years of Protecting Our Special Places
Since 1988, Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) has been preserving the special environmental and historical treasures of Alachua County and surrounding areas. Using the proceeds from a joint acquisition (with the Trust for Public Land) and subsequent re-sale of lands along Prairie Creek, ACT immediately began negotiating for additional properties around Paynes Prairie Preserve. The 963-a cre Hickory Ranch, the 656-acre Jerevan properties, and half a dozen other parcels around the Prairie – totaling nearly 2500 acres – were acquired through ACT’s negotiations.
With the passage of Florida’s Preservation 2000 land acquisition program, ACT embarked on several sweeping conservation proposals. ACT created the Newnans Lake project, which has resulted in the acquisition of 5000 acres by the St. Johns River Water Management District. ACT proposed the Watermelon Pond project, now part of the Goethe State Forest, and submitted the proposals creating the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area, and additions to San Felasco Hammock Preserve. ACT negotiated dozens of purchase agreements on thousands of acres of land that are now part of public park systems.
Besides the “big, wild, and connected” lands, ACT proposed the Hogtown Creek Greenway which winds through western Gainesville. The project received $3 million from the Florida Communities Trust and the City of Gainesville in 1991, and ACT acquired creek-side lands for this urban greenway connecting the University of Florida with Kanapaha Botanical Gardens several miles away.
In the early 90s, ACT began working regionally, and accepted the donation of a 413-acre conservation easement in Yankeetown to protect a beautiful property along the rapidly developing Gulf coast. ACT also worked as the acquisition agent under contract to the Suwannee River Water Management District, protecting more than 1000 acres of land in the ten-year floodplain along the Suwannee River. ACT has a major conservation easement at Gum Slough in Sumter and Marion Counties.
Besides land conservation, ACT’s mission includes historic preservation, such as the decade long project to acquire and restore the 1850s Historic Haile Homestead. ACT is also working on the restoration of 19th century farm buildings and a church in Rochelle
In 2001, ACT submitted a Florida Communities Trust application for Blues Creek Ravine and Fox Pond in partnership with the Trust for Public Land. The $2.9 million grant was funded and both properties are now und er permanent protection. ACT currently owns and manages Blues Creek Ravine and will open it to the public in partnership with Alachua County. In 2002, ACT received a conservation easement over 650-acres of a landmark private farm near San Felasco Hammock.
In 2004, with the help of a conservation donor, ACT purchased the last rookery on Lake Santa Fe, protecting 1500 feet of shoreline where osprey, great blue heron, and egret nest every spring. In 2004, ACT also proposed the protection of 600 acres of Lake Tuscawilla in a cooperative project with the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Conservation Trust for Florida. State funds of $2.1 million were awarded and ACT purchased 379 acres in 2006. Using federal funds to protect migratory bird habitat, ACT expects to add an additional 200 acres in 2008-2009.
In 2005, ACT purchased the 643-acre Phifer Flatwoods at an auction, using funds raised and borrowed from 300 supporters. This property, which includes three miles along the Gainesville – Hawthorne Rail Trail, was sold to the Alachua County Forever program in early 2006 and was opene d to the public in 2008.
ACT’s current projects include a conservation easement on a 2500-acre historic farm in Putnam County (in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy), a project to connect ACT’s 80-acre Saarinen Preserve with the Dudley Farm State Historic Site, expansion of the Tuscawilla Preserve using federal migratory bird grants, and projects in the Serenola Forest, Prairie Creek basin, on the Santa Fe River, and the Lochloosa Creek wildlife corridor.
During ACT’s 20 years, it has evolved along with the role of land trusts. When ACT began, the nation had fewer than 400 local land trusts – today there are more than 1500. In Florida, ACT is one of only two local land trusts that are in the Top 50 nationwide in both acres and value of lands protected. Alachua Conservation Trust has also set the curve in diversity of projects – from easements, to historic preservation, to outright acquisitions, to environmental education.
The future for ACT will not differ from the past:—there will be too much to do, not enough money to do it, and the heartbreaking triage of selecting where conservation efforts might succeed. Alachua Conservation Trust has become a community institution entrusted with the extraordinary responsibility to protect the land and heritage we love, and to pass on the best of this cherished place’s natural resources to future generations.