North Florida Land Trust announced that Jim McCarthy will be stepping down as its president after eight years of service. “Finishing law school this year caused me to look at things a bit differently. While it was directly applicable to my role at the land trust, this is the time for me to step away and take on some different challenges. We have accomplished a great deal and I am proud of that,” said McCarthy. McCarthy’s last day will be August 31, but he will continue to consult for NFLT for an additional six months after that date.
“I have had the chance to build and work with two incredible teams: one pre-pandemic and one post. We have accomplished much and there is much more to be done. It has truly been the highlight of my career. I am in good health and have plenty of energy, so this is the perfect time for me to explore new endeavors. I am excited about where this may take me, and now is the time for me to focus on other areas of interest,” said McCarthy.
Since joining the land trust in 2014, McCarthy has grown NFLT from an organization of 2.5 employees to 14 and boosted its operating budget from $233,000 to $2.5 million in 2022. In addition, during that time, NFLT has secured $46,442,131 in federal, state, foundation, and individual funding to protect property through conservation. Each year NFLT has increased its net worth growing from $8.8 million in 2014 to $17.9 million through 2021. As McCarthy frequently cautions, “It is like being ‘house poor’ in that our value is in land we hold in conservation and would never sell.” In 2018, NFLT was accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. Accreditation is awarded to land trusts meeting the highest national standards for excellence and conservation permanence. Each accredited land trust completes a rigorous review process and joins a network of organizations united by strong ethical practices.
NFLT Board Chair John Delaney said, “We are very grateful to Jim for his leadership. Our growth can be directly attributed to his relationships with key decision and policy makers. He has been the face of NFLT for the past eight years. We look forward to continuing to work with him through the transition and wish him all the best in his next venture.”
During McCarthy’s tenure, NFLT’s relationship with the state’s Division of State Lands has been critical to the acquisition of multiple properties including the $6.5 million acquisition of Fish Island in St. Augustine through the state’s Florida Forever Program. Given the recently signed Memorandum of Agreement with the Division of State Lands, more will follow in 2022 and future years. Earlier this year, NFLT entered into a partnership with the City of Jacksonville and the US Navy to secure funding from the US Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Integration (REPI) program to secure lands to protect the First Coast’s naval facilities. In 2017, NFLT became the contracting agent for the same program at Camp Blanding through the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program. In 2018, NFLT received an award from the US Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and then an additional award in 2020 securing $9.4 million for conservation easements. Relationships with several foundations have developed and evolved into significant funding sources now totaling millions of dollars for land acquisitions, stewardship, and operations. Nassau County selected NFLT to develop and then lead its Conservation Land Acquisition and Management (CLAM) program and has submitted a proposal to do the same for Clay County.
In 2015, NFLT created the Preservation Portfolio which identified the most critically important areas for conservation on the First Coast and guided its actions for the years that followed. The organization completed three strategic plans (2015, 2018 and 2021), the most recent changing the mission statement and establishing a vision statement. In 2019 NFLT initiated and now leads the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor, a regionally unprecedented partnership of 26 public agencies and private organizations working together toward a common goal – land conservation and protection of 140,000 acres by 2036. It is also part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. NFLT is a partner in the Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition.
Among other organizations he has been involved with, McCarthy was appointed by then Governor Rick Scott, and confirmed by the Florida Senate, to the state’s Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC). He was reappointed to that position by Governor Ron DeSantis. He has served on the Steering Committee for the South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative (SASMI), the Florida Conservation Coalition and the Alliance of Florida Land Trusts. He is a Trustee of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce and of JAXUSA. He also serves on the Community Advisory Board of TRUIST. In 2021, Florida Trend Magazine named McCarthy one of the “500 Most Influential Business Leaders” in Florida.