Press Statement: Florida Forever Shorted Again

Press Statement: Florida Forever Shorted Again

Statement from the Florida Forever Coalition Regarding the Florida Legislature’s Proposed 2013 Budget

Contact: Eric Draper, Chair of Florida Forever Coalition, 850-251-1301, edraper@audubon.org

The budget proposed by the state legislature falls far short of adequately funding Florida Forever, which protects our open spaces and crucial water and wildlife habitat. Although Governor Rick Scott requested $25 million in general revenue for Florida Forever, the House and Senate have agreed to provide only $10 million in new general revenue; earmarked only for military base buffering is also $10 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

While acknowledging and appreciating all Florida Forever appropriations, these numbers fall far short of the funds historically spent on protecting land and water for Floridians. The appropriations for land conservation appears to be larger than it is in reality due to $50 million that would be available only from sale of other conservation lands. But no one knows what existing parks, forests and wildlife areas may be sold off for that purpose and most people are very skeptical of the plan.

Under both Republican and Democratic control, Florida Forever, and its predecessor, Preservation 2000, received $300 million per year allowing protection of millions of acres of important places through direct purchase and conservation easements all with willing sellers. But the job is not done. The current Florida Forever priority list identifies almost 2 million acres in need of protection, and this does not include the land acquisition needs of water management districts or local governments. With Florida’s economy recovering, we must again invest in protecting the most important places before they are lost to development. While even the small amount of funding provided this year is welcome, it is simply inadequate to save what we must to keep Florida ecologically and economically sustainable.

We thank the many, many Floridians who have expressed support for Florida Forever and encourage people to continue.