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CFX BOARD APPROVES RESOLUTION TO PROTECT CONSERVATION LANDS

On May 12, 2022, the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) Board voted unanimously to approve a Resolution of Support increasing the protection of conservation lands within the Central Florida region. The resolution, brought forth by CFX board member and Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine, includes a list of environmental enhancements including $13 million for restoration and maintenance of over 1,550 acres of donated land in Orange and Osceola counties.

The Resolution is related to the proposed 9-mile Osceola Parkway Extension (SR 534), which includes a linear easement for the 1.3 mile-section that would go through the southwest corner of Split Oak Forest in Osceola County. The new expressway will help relieve traffic congestion and improve connectivity in one of the fastest growing regions in the country.

Provisions stipulated in the Resolution of Support include:
• CFX will not request a widening of the easement after the initial construction of the Expressway.
• CFX supports granting a conservation and preservation easement across Split Oak and the 1,550 acres of donated land to a qualified land conservancy organization.
• CFX agrees to fund restoration to meet the criteria identified in an independent management plan and will fund the maintenance for a 30-year period for the 1,550 acres of donated land. Restoration and maintenance costs is estimated to be approximately +/-$13 million net present value.
• CFX supports the efforts of Florida Fish and Wildlife and other land management agencies to assure that gopher tortoise mitigation easement areas within the 160 acres impacted by the Osceola Expressway Extension project are replaced with areas suitable for gopher tortoise habitat contiguous to and linked in a corridor to Split Oak.
• CFX supports the grant of easement to the Florida Trail Association to promote, develop and maintain a network of hiking trails through Split Oak and the 1,550 acres of donated land with some allowanced for dog friendly trails.
• CFX agrees to provide substantial bridged wildlife crossings along the 1.3-mile Expressway through Split Oak in Osceola County; using the Wekiva Parkway wildlife crossings as a model for this project.
• CFX will advocate for the expansion of wildlife corridors to provide more wildlife connectivity to other preservation lands in the area based on the 2021 Florida Ecological Greenways Network.
• CFX will erect appropriate signage and warning signals along the expressway for the periodic prescribed burns necessary for the conservation and preservation of Split Oak and will coordinate with the appropriate agencies to alert the traveling public of prescribed burns in the area when necessary.

“These stand alone and unprecedented commitments in this Resolution are above and beyond what the Florida Communities Trust has required,” said Commissioner Constantine. “My hope is that this will serve as a model for road builders to follow now and in the future for any expressway expansion projects that are located near environmentally sensitive areas.”

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