USF Forest Preserve passes Hillsborough County criteria for land purchases


Hillsborough County officials have said a 500-acre undeveloped property in Tampa owned by the University of South Florida is eligible for its land purchase program. The county took an interest in preserving the land after USF officials called for proposals to develop this in April.

The USF Forest Preserve, off Fletcher Avenue and adjacent to the University of Tampa campus, is used as a natural classroom for many in the Department of Integrative Biology.

That is why students and teachers try to protect it from development. They contacted government leaders to save the property, which includes wetlands and dune habitat.

Hillsborough County Commissioners were interested and referred the property to County Council Environmental Land Acquisition and Protection Program.

Members of the program released an assessment this month indicating that the reserve meets purchase criteria.

READ: See Hillsborough’s full assessment of the USF Forest Reserve.

The document states that the land is a critical part of the Greenway Wildlife Corridor that stretches from Wilderness Conservation Park to Cypress Creek Nature Preserve. He also cited the threatened and endangered plant and animal species that are getting used to it.

ELAPP site assessment document

Jeannie Monger, organizer of the newly created association Save the USF Forest Reserve, said she was not convinced the university would sell.

“I think the county is unlikely to actually acquire the property. However, I think the ELAPP, and by extension the county, rules in this way that the conservation value of this site is unequivocal is very important in our fight to protect the reserve, ”Monger said.

“That tells the university that there is an established independent body here that says, much the same as we say, that this site must be preserved.”

Hillsborough’s land acquisition program will need to do a full site assessment, but their latest document says they have yet to get USF clearance to access the property.

On April 1, the university asked developers for proposals to build the land, under the leadership of then-president Steven Currall. Then in June, USF published all eight locations that it has received since the request for information.

A USF spokesperson said in an email that the university had made no decision regarding the reservation.

“The last USF update on the property was provided in May. Since then, USF has gone through a leadership transition with Rhea Law as interim president. President Law is reviewing the matter and looks forward to working with the community to establish the next steps in the process very soon, ”the spokesperson said.

Monger said she was encouraged by Law’s actions regarding the property. Members of the USF Forest Preserve Advisory Board and USF Student Government told him Law had brought in his own environmental consultant.

The UMA was unable to obtain independent confirmation of this statement from the university. But Monger worries about what a new administration might do.

“I hope that future USF administrations will understand the ecological value of the site, but also the research and educational value of the property and not consider it just as other real estate,” she said. declared.

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