Group works to stop proposed sale of state land in Seminole County

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Some Seminole County homeowners said they bought their homes for the protected woodlands and nature surrounding them. But now the state wants to give up that land as part of an effort to sell conservation property around Florida.

Bear sightings are a common occurrence at Randall Turner's home. His family loves it.

"It feels like you're out in the country, but you're really outside of town," said Turner.

Turner bought the home near Markham Woods Road 10 years ago with the idea that the Wekiva forest behind them would never be developed.

But now the state wants to sell the land by next spring.

"Our biggest fear would be them to put more homes in here or to sell this land off to developers," said Turner.

The parcels make up part of the 3,000 acres of conservation land the state said is surplus.

State officials want to sell the land and use the money to buy other land they say is more important.

They said they want to buy properties that will protect water resources and create buffers for military installations.

"We think it's a bad thing. A lot of these parcels were acquired under the Florida Forever program and to us, forever means forever, not two or five years or whenever it's convenient to sell these parcels off," said Chuck O'Neal of the League of Women Voters Natural Resources Committee.

The conservation land is meant to protect wildlife in the area like deer and bears. Critics of the sale said they fear if the land is gone, the animals will end up in places they don't belong.

Now a grassroots group is filing for an injunction to stop the state in its tracks.

"If they would actually come out and view some of the wildlife that comes through and some of the importance," said Turner.

State officials have said that before they put any surplus land out for public bid, they'll offer it first to state agencies, universities or local governments.