Hillsborough County is currently accepting applications for land to be considered for purchase under the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program.

Hillsborough County is hoping to do something to help keep green space in SouthShore despite the population growth the area is experiencing. From now until June 30, residents are encouraged to nominate land to be considered for purchase under the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP).

According to Hillsborough County spokesperson Todd Pratt, the ELAPP protects and preserves endangered, environmentally sensitive lands in Hillsborough County. Most of the property purchased through the program is eventually opened for passive public use such as hiking or bird watching. Local lands now protected that have been purchased through the program include Riverview’s Alafia Scrub Nature Preserve, Bell Creek Nature Preserve, Rhodine Scrub Nature Preserve and Triple Creek Nature Preserve.

“The purpose is to conserve and protect environmentally unique, irreplaceable and valued ecological resources,” said Pratt.

Residents, land owners, community associations and government agencies can nominate land and there is no fee or obligation associated with the nomination, but land is only purchased from willing sellers.

After nomination, properties go through an assessment process to determine environmental significance and selected sites go to the Board of County Commissioners for approval. The land that is approved for purchase is bought using bonds issued as part of a 2008 referendum.

“Factors that qualify property for possible purchase include land that is comprised of mostly native flora and fauna, provides habitat for state or federally listed species, has unique geologic features, helps protect water quality or links with other protected lands to form habitat corridors,” said Pratt.

According to Pratt, the county has been purchasing land through this program since 1988 and to date, the ELAPP Program has acquired, contracted or participated in the preservation of about 61,811 acres of land.

Nominations at www.hillsboroughcounty.org and should be submitted to:

Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, Conservation & Environmental Lands Management Department, Bell Creek Administrative Office, 10490 McMullen Rd. Riverview, FL 33569.

Call 672-7876.