At long last, Florida Forever program can help wildlife
From the Defenders of Wildlife
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida legislature has agreed to appropriate $100.8 million to land conservation programs that will protect and restore wildlife habitat in the state. This includes $77 million for the Florida Forever land acquisition program. This is the first year since the 2014 voter-approved constitutional amendment that there has been a significant appropriation for Florida Forever, and it is more than double the amount the legislature has appropriated to the program over the past 10 years. Through the 1990s and 2000s, Florida appropriated as much as $300 million a year for land acquisition programs.
Statement from Defenders of Wildlife Senior Representative Kent Wimmer:
“Thanks to the tireless efforts of conservation advocates in Florida, we finally have significant funding to help conserve our state’s unique natural heritage. Securing this long-overdue funding was a truly collaborative effort by the Florida Conservation Coalition and citizens in Florida who care about our wildlife and their habitat.
“We succeeded in the face of indifference and interference from political leaders who tried to funnel away tax dollars set aside for land conservation– against the wishes of 75 percent of Florida voters who supported the 2014 Constitutional Amendment 1. While the approved amount falls far short of past land conservation appropriations and present needs, we are looking forward to applying these hard-won funds to help the Florida panther, gopher tortoise, manatee and hundreds of other species that survive and thrive in the Sunshine state.”
- The Florida Forever program is a state land acquisition program designed to conserve environmentally sensitive lands, manage and restore natural systems and to enhance public access to and recreational use of conservation lands. The Florida Forever program is established in state law and funded through a set-aside portion of Florida Documentary Stamp Tax (real estate transfers and other legal documents).
- The appropriation includes $10 million to Florida Communities Trust for local conservation lands; $6 million to the Florida Recreational Development Assistance Program for local park development; $5.8 million to rural and family lands for agricultural easements; and $2 million for conserving working waterfronts.
- The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment, which was passed by 75 percent of the Florida vote in 2014, directs the Legislature to appropriate these tax revenues for conservation land acquisition, management and environmental restoration.
- For more than two decades, Florida Forever was the country's largest land acquisition program, receiving $300 million per year. More than 2.5 million acres have been purchased through Florida Forever and its preceding program.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.