The Mormon Church will be one of the largest private landowners in Florida.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, AgReserves Inc., a taxpaying company of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will buy 382,834 acres in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties for $565 million from the St. Joe Company.
The Tampa Bay Times reports the church already owns the Deseret Ranches in Central Florida, which has nearly 290,000 acres covering Brevard, Orange and Osceola counties.
The massive deal, which is most of St. Joe’s land holdings, will leave the church in Utah with 678,000 acres. That is larger than the other private holding in Florida, including Foley Timer and Land Co. (562,000 acres) and Plum Creek a Seattle-based real estate company with 448,000 acres.
AgReserves Inc., will maintain the use of timber and agriculture from St. Joe Co., and keep all existing agreements and contracts pertaining to the production of timber.
"AgReserves has demonstrated its commitment to wise land stewardship and prudent resource management during more than 60 years of ranching and agricultural operations in east central Florida," said Paul Genho, chairman of AgReserves. "We will apply that same commitment and expertise to managing the property we are acquiring in Florida's panhandle."
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gave his approval of the deal, seeing it as long-term investment in Florida’s timber and cattle business.
"This transaction between two of Florida's largest and most committed land stewards is a meaningful reminder of the economic and ecological value of agriculture in our state," Putnam said.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) signed an executive order last week. It allows the East Central Florida Corridor Task Force to plan for roads, development and environmental protection in an area dominated by Deseret Ranches.
The transaction will help the company, which will be left with 184,000 acres, to focus on real-estate development.