Press Release: Legislature Gets Stingy With Florida Forever, Citizen Initiative Will Support Water and Land Stewardship
Tallahassee, FL (May 6, 2014) - The 2014 Florida Legislative Session ended last week with another low budget amount for the popular Florida Forever land conservation program. Despite a budget surplus and the need to keep pace with development, funds for land conservation dropped to $17.5 million.
Since 2009, money committed to land conservation has declined by 96 percent. Even as the economy turns around, the state’s commitment to protecting our natural areas, water resources, coastline and wildlife habitat continues to fall far short of what’s truly needed.
“While Everglades restoration and South Florida estuary recovery were winners in the state budget, the Florida Forever land conservation program was short changed once again,” said Laurie Macdonald, Florida Program Director of Defenders of Wildlife and Chair of the Florida Forever Coalition. “Water and land conservation in Florida deserves a stable, dedicated source of funding. This year’s budget is another perfect example of why it is so important for voters to say yes on Amendment 1, the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, this November.”
The legislature limited Florida Forever funds this year to selected purposes that reflect water resource and military base buffering priorities, rather than keeping these among the broader priorities as determined through the Florida Forever statute. New money accounts for $10 million; $7.5 million is from trust fund reallocation or interest on existing Florida Forever funds. The legislature did allow for an additional $40 million from the sale of surplus non-conservation land, if such sales materialize.
Of the $17.5 million, $5 million goes to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the Rural and Family Lands program through which easement agreements are worked out with private landowners who will continue ranching and farming operations while stewarding resources for conservation.
The remaining $12.5 million is limited to less-than-fee interest or for partnership purchases where the state’s portion of the acquisition cost is no more than 50 percent. These easements and acquisitions must be used for springs, water resource protection, or for military land buffering. While important, they leave little opportunity for meeting other Florida Forever purposes, such as, providing urban parks and trails and wildlife management areas.
While the 2014 legislative session resulted in a disappointingly low appropriation of funds for statewide land conservation, the results underscore the need and commitment of the Florida Forever Coalition and its hundreds of affiliates for assuring all Florida’s citizens are fully informed of their opportunity to support resource protection and save Florida’s special places through Amendment 1 in November.
- Laurie Macdonald 727-580-9585
- Will Abberger 850-294-2006
- Janet Bowman 850-251-9496
- Manley Fuller 850-567-7129
- Eric Draper 850-251-1301
- Charles Pattison 850-322-3144