Dismal Legislative Session for Florida’s Conservation Lands

We are deeply disappointed that the Florida legislature did not fund the Florida Forever land acquisition program in the recently-completed legislative session and only allocated $10 million for the Rural and Family Lands program.  This is even worse than last year’s budget of a paltry $60 million for these programs.  For many years prior to the recession, Florida Forever received $300 million!

On a positive note, legislators allocated over $250 million for Everglades restoration, $50 million for beach restoration, $50 million for springs restoration and protection, and $13 million for the St. Johns River.  But, in addition to ZERO funding for new conservation lands, the Department of Environmental Protection’s budget was cut 20%.  So much for protecting Florida’s precious environment.

Many farmers and ranchers are under pressure to sell their family lands to development.  The Rural and Family Lands program is a vital component of the North Florida Land Trust’s efforts to keep these areas in agricultural production.  The $10 million allocation to this program is woefully insufficient.

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved the Land and Water Legacy Amendment in 2014 which sets aside 1/3 of document stamp tax revenue into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.  Since then, lawmakers have ignored voters’ intent.  Statewide this fund had over $900 million last year including $47 million for Northeast Florida’s seven counties.  Residents expected some of that money to come back to our region for parks and preserves; but, again this year, it didn’t happen.

Let your legislators know that as a voter, you expect them to significantly fund acquisition of conservation land, including the Florida Forever, Florida Communities Trust and Rural and Family Lands programs.

Find your state senator and representative at http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx

Andrea has spoken to citizens’ groups throughout NE Florida, encouraging residents to get involved by contacting elected officials and writing letters to the editor.  If your local group is interested in learning more, please contact NFLT Conservation Advocate Andrea Conover to schedule a presentation.