Bush, Cabinet, Sign Off on Panhandle Conservation Project

The $18 million land conservation deal stretches all the way from Apalachicola to Ft. Walton Beach.

The money will keep more than 18,000 acres in the Panhandle undeveloped. It will be kept clear for wildlife habitat and military training.

Landowner MC Davis will remain the owner, but the deal keeps him and his descendants from ever selling or developing the land.

The land has an appraised value of $60 million if it sold to developers, almost four times what the state is paying to keep it pristine.

The owner is a real estate speculator and conservationist who lives in Santa Rosa Beach. He says he wants to preserve the land for wildlife habitat.

But it's also part of a massive stretch of land that officials are trying to keep undeveloped so there won't be interference with military training and testing, particularly from units at nearby Eglin Air Force Base.