Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Cabinet approves land purchases for conservation

TALLAHASSEE — A pair of land purchases approved Tuesday by Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet were hailed by conservationists as a sign that a pulse is returning to the Florida Forever conservation program.

The Cabinet unanimously agreed to spend $3.15 million to acquire 669 acres in Charlotte County to help restore the flow of freshwater to the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve, and $9.77 million for 619 acres in Collier County that will provide additional buffering for the 13,000-acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Bird Rookery Swamp.

Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues, said the deals are a sign that "the state of Florida is back in the business of conservation."

"We depend in Southwest Florida on a healthy environment," Draper said. "That's part of our economy down there."

Starting in 1991, lawmakers had consistently provided $300 million annually for the Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 land-buying programs. But in recent years, funding has dried up as the state faced a series of tight budgets and Republican leaders expressed increasing concern over costs of managing the state's growing real estate holdings.

Funding for the purchases Tuesday were made by selling non-conservation parcels of land. The sales replaced a more controversial program that sought to raise the money by selling parcels the state has previously acquired for preservation.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said funding for programs like Florida Forever should increase due to the 2014 voter-approved Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment, which devotes a portion of real-estate taxes to conservation efforts, and the recovering economy.

Putnam added that there should be a mix of outright purchases of land for conservation and the purchase of development rights, which allow farmers and ranchers to continue to use their land while the state is able to keep those parcels from being built up.

"I believe the purchase of development rights achieves the same environmental benefits at greater savings to the state," Putnam said.

Putnam has requested $25 million for the Rural and Family Protection Program, which is used for development right deals.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have started to break down how they will use money from the land and water conservation amendment, approved in November with 75 percent of the vote.

The amendment requires that for the next two decades, 33 percent of the revenue from a tax on real-estate transactions, known as documentary stamps, go into conservation efforts, including Florida Forever.

Staff for the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee last week projected the amendment will generate $757 million for conservation efforts during the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Since the amendment was approved, lawmakers have differed on how to define land-preservation and water-conservation projects, how the state should determine which of its "impaired" water bodies is most critical and how to approach the reduction of stormwater runoff and agricultural fertilizer use.

Florida Cabinet approves land purchases for conservation 01/13/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 5:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  2. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  3. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  4. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.
  5. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile

    World

    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.