No Funding For Florida Conservation Lands, Except Working Ranch Lands
The Legislature is expected to vote Monday on an $83 billion state budget.
Its only allocation for land conservation targets working ranch lands especially in central Florida.
The budget puts $10 million dollars toward the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, aimed at protecting ranch lands from future development through conservation easements.
Julie Morris of the National Wildlife Refuge Association says the program has protected some 30-thousand acres since 2010 with a focus on the Everglades' headwaters in central Florida.
"We have really productive sustainable cattle ranches there that also protect our highest priority water resources and also provide habitat for wide-ranging species."
The allocation is paltry but important given the budget allocates no money for Florida Forever, the state's land acquisition program. It once got $300 million a year.
"It's incredibly unusual to see that at zero particularly given that we passed the Land and Water Conservation Amendment in order to get that from zero to something closer to like $300 million," says Aliki Moncrief of Florida Conservation Voters.
State leaders say the budget funds other environmental programs like Everglades restoration.