By Preston Robertson, Sarah Owen Gledhill and Jay Liles
Conservation Land Funding: The Florida House and Senate recently released recommended budgets for the environment and agriculture. These documents set the tone for further debate on the state budget and give advocates a sense of where legislative leadership (appropriations chairs, the Senate President and House Speaker) want to start debate on state budget priorities.
Unfortunately, the position taken by leadership in both chambers is far below what we hoped to see in the way of funding for Florida’s environment and specifically for land conservation efforts. For example, the House proposal has no (zero) funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) nor does it adequately fund Florida Forever. The Senate proposal offers only $15.1 million for Florida Forever and mirrors the House with no funding for Rural and Family Lands.
The Florida Wildlife Federation supports full funding for Florida Forever at the historic levels previously supported by large, bi-partisan majorities in both Chambers of the Legislature. See below how you can TAKE ACTION. We are supporting the position that 25% of Amendment 1 dollars be used for land conservation via the Florida Forever program.
The Rural and Family Lands Program keeps farmland in production by placing perpetual conservation easements on the property. While this is not the same as public ownership, many conservation objectives are still achieved. FWF is a strong advocate for keeping rural lands “rural” and not facilitating more suburban sprawl. See below how you can TAKE ACTION.
Florida Equal Access to Justice Act: The Federation is opposed to the misleading name of HB 997 – Florida Equal Access to Justice Act. HB 997 would essentially gut the ability of citizens to fight in the courts for their communities against misguided or inappropriate development. If we are to keep our quality of life, we must allow local Floridians to be part of decision-making.
Update: HB 997 was temporarily postponed in the House on 3/28/17 during its first committee stop. The Senate has a similar bill SB 996 (Administrative Proceedings) which will be taken up in committee.
Everglades Restoration: The Federation supports the creation of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee (SB 10) so that excess water from the Lake may be cleaned and sent south to rehydrate the Everglades and Biscayne Bay. The result would be the mitigation of pollution of the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River, and the assurance of water to the Everglades and the Biscayne Aquifer, which one-third of Floridians rely upon.
Update: Unfortunately, SB 10 has been substantially amended to include funding for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee AND funding for water supply development. It also changes the direction of the “state’s major land acquisition programs” (e.g., Florida Forever) from conservation purposes to acquisition and improvements to land and water areas to protect, restore and develop water resources. These amendments are concerning as they seem to be eliminating the possibility of bonding for Florida Forever and diminishing the role of conservation land protection which was the intent of Amendment 1 passed in 2014 by the voters. Since the amended version of SB 10 was approved by the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources on 3/8/17, the Federation and its allies have been working with the bill sponsors to change the amended language. We need to let them know we need protection of conservation lands which also serve as water recharge areas. This was the purpose of Amendment 1, the Water and Land Legacy Amendment. SB 10’s next stop is the full Senate Appropriations Committee.
Ban on Fracking: The Federation supports a ban on fracking in Florida. Fracking, otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, is a process used to explore for oil or natural gas, and involves a process heavy in the use of freshwater and carcinogenic chemicals. As a state with Swiss-cheese like karstic geology, fracking’s risk to our precious water supply is too great to allow this activity. SB 442 and HB 451 would ban fracking.
Update: Recently, a number of media outlets have published articles claiming fracking is dead this legislative session. We believe a bill is not dead until sine die. With 18 co-sponsors, we feel confident the Senate will pass the bill. Even if only the Senate passes the bill and the House does not, this will put us in a better position for next year.
Your FWF Legislative Advocacy Team
Florida Forever and Everglades Restoration: Please email the Senate Appropriations Committee and ask them to support full funding of Florida Forever and fund the Rural and Family Lands Program.
Copy and paste the emails from below:
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