Natural Areas Program
One goal of the County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management
(ERM) is to preserve, monitor and maintain the County’s native biological
communities, encouraging the highest possible environmental quality and best
long-term stewardship practices. To reach that goal, ERM developed the County’s Natural Areas Program. In 1991 and
1999 Palm Beach County voters approved referendums that authorized the sale of a total of $250 million in bonds
for the acquisition of lands for conservation purposes. Of this total, $100 million
was earmarked for the purchase and conservation of agricultural lands in the
County’s Agricultural Reserve. The remaining funds, together with state and municipal matching funds and mitigation dollars, were used to acquire
more than 31,000 acres that are owned or
leased by the County and managed as natural areas or greenways by ERM. The natural areas
targeted for purchase were selected on the basis of their biological characteristics
and were acquired to preserve the rare and diverse native ecosystems present
on these sites and the endangered, threatened, and rare species of plants and
animals that live there.
There are 19 natural areas with public use facilities, such as a small
parking lot, hiking trails, and an informational kiosk.
The natural areas are open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week, including
holidays, for passive, natural resource-based recreation activities such as hiking, bird watching, nature study,
and photography, as well as for environmental education and scientific research. Other recreation uses, such as horseback riding, bicycling, and fishing, are permitted in designated areas on a site-specific basis.