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. Video shows massive sinkhole that swallowed Apopka home and may grow larger

    Public Safety

    APOPKA — A home near Orlando was partially swallowed by a massive sinkhole Tuesday morning that may grow even larger, officials said.

    A home at 222 West Kelly Park Road in Apopka, Fla., is being swallowed by a sinkhole on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Orange County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Kat Kennedy says crews responded Tuesday morning, shortly after the Apopka house began sinking. [Stephen M. Dowell | Orlando Sentinel via AP]
  2. Daniel Ruth: Public money built Bucs' stadium, so let public sell tickets

    Columns

    Who knew the Tampa Bay Bucs were actually the Daisies of Dale Mabry?

    Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, wants to do what it takes to ensure that those sitting in the lower bowl of Raymond James Stadium are wearing his team's colors. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]

  3. America's opioid problem is so bad it's cutting into U.S. life expectancy

    Public Safety

    Prosecutors in New York announced this week that an August drug raid yielded 140 pounds of fentanyl, the most in the city's history and enough to kill 32 million people, they told New York 4.

    The average American life expectancy grew overall from 2000 to 2015, but that the astounding rise in opioid-related deaths shaved 2.5 months off this improvement, according to a study. [Associated Press]
  4. After Hurricane Irma, Tampa Bay officers headed south to help out

    Public Safety

    When Hurricane Irma was forecast to pummel the Tampa Bay region, Tampa police Cpl. Whitney McCormick was ready for the worst — to lose her home and all of her possessions.

    Tampa International Airport Police Department Sgt. Eric Diaz (left) stands next to Tampa Police Department Cpl. Whitney McCormick at the Collier County Command Post in the days after Hurricane Irma. More than 100 local law enforcement officers traveled from Tampa Bay to help out the county. (Courtesy of Whitney McCormick)
  5. Forecast: Sunny skies, mainly dry conditions continue across Tampa Bay

    Weather

    For Tampa Bay residents, Wednesday is expected to bring lots of sunshine, lower humidity and little to no storm chances.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]