What We Do

Our Mission

Preserving the natural areas, historic resources and working lands of North Florida.

North Florida Land Trust is a nonprofit organization committed to protecting and preserving the natural heritage of North Florida. We work to ensure our region’s treasured lands will be protected and enjoyed by future generations.

North Florida Land Trust, founded in 1999, is a private, non-profit organization focused on protecting lands of ecological, agricultural and historic significance. We preserve land throughout North Florida; focusing on Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Union and Volusia Counties, and work on an as-needed basis elsewhere in Florida. Throughout the years, we have protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land.

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization funded largely by private and corporate contributions. Contributions from our donors are tax deductible.

Founder, Bill McQuilkin

Our History

“I am extremely proud of the fact that so many new properties have been protected, now up to 18,000 acres, and the organization has prospered with professional staff. The NFLT is a legacy which gives me great pleasure and satisfaction.” -Bill McQuilkin, April 2017

North Florida Land Trust was founded in 1999 by Bill McQuilkin, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach at that time. Bill was actively involved with the Audubon Society, first as a board member of Florida Audubon, then the National Audubon Society. Through his work with Audubon, he became more interested in land protection issues. He vacationed every year in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he discovered the premier land trust in the country at the time – Jackson Hole Land Trust. Bill recalled, in a conversation with Staff in 2017, “We did not have a land trust in north Florida at the time. . . and I was convinced that land conservation was urgently needed,” he said. “This became a calling for me.”

Bill attended a Land Trust Alliance (LTA) meeting and got excited. The LTA is a capacity-building resource and uniting force for its membership of over 1,000 land trusts working to preserve land in their localities across the United States. After several meetings with the LTA, Bill filed with the IRS to become incorporated as a nonprofit, and thus founded the North Florida Land Trust.

With the goal of finding an office and hiring paid staff, Bill established a Board of Directors and began to fundraise. Through the guidance of Bill McQuilkin and early Board Members, David Strickland, Bill Dresser, Mark Allen and others, NFLT established itself at the Jacksonville Beaches and St. Augustine. After several short-term Executive Directors, Bonnie Barnes was hired in 2007 and would manage the organization for almost seven years. In 2014, Jim McCarthy was brought on as the current President of NFLT, and the organization has since grown to ten full time and two part-time staff, and many wonderful volunteers.

The early achievements of NFLT were helped through many partnerships. One of the earliest accomplishments was to preserve Pescatello Island, a 30-acre natural, uninhabited island located in northern Duval County, Florida, on Clapboard Creek. North Florida Land Trust purchased the property in 2002, with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, and continues to preserve the island in its natural state.

Since those original thirty acres, NFLT has preserved many more natural areas throughout our region – up to 20,000 acres. From natural lands to historic and agricultural resources, NFLT is actively working to preserve the integrity of our native north Florida landscape.

How we work

We acquire land through donations and purchases of land or conservation easements.

  • Donations – We accept donations from private land owners, businesses, and government entities.
  • Purchases – We buy land with significant conservation value such as those lands mapped out in our preservation portfolio.
  • Conservation easements – We work with landowners to protect their land from future development, while still allowing them to own, use and enjoy their property.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a land trust?

A land trust is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to the permanent protection and stewardship of land for public benefit. We work closely with landowners to conserve land through acquisition, conservation easements, or other interests in real property. Land trusts are supported through charitable donations. Once land is protected, land trusts have an ongoing responsibility to care for the land, ensuring easements are upheld and preserves are well-managed.

What is a conservation easement? 

A conservation easement is a voluntary and legally binding agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values, as specified in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 170(h).

Conservation easements offer flexibility for the landowners in protecting their land. For example, they can allow the landowner to retain the right to grow crops on the parcel, while at the same time the landowner will relinquish the right to build additional structures on the property. An easement may apply to all or a portion of the property and may or may not allow for public access to the property.

A landowner who has donated a conservation easement can sell the land or pass it along to heirs, but future owners are bound by the terms of the easement. If the conservation easement permanently protects important conservation resources, it can qualify as a charitable tax deduction on the donor’s federal income tax return. This tax incentive was made permanent in 2015.