TELL LAWMAKERS TO PROTECT FLORIDA’S WATER SUPPLY NOW

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE

Florida’s 2019 60-day Legislative Session is expected to end on May 3rd. To date, the state’s House and Senate members have still not funded the Rural and Family Lands Protection program.

This is despite the fact that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has $75 million in budget requests.

In the above film, Julie Morris of The Florida Conservation Group http://www.floridaconserve.org, which advocates for the protection of Florida’s ranch lands, says, “Funding our land protection programs is a time-sensitive issue. Both Florida Forever and Rural Family Lands are critical programs to protecting viable wildlife populations and clean water. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road and putting off protecting one of our most sensitive landscapes.”

Morris also emphasizes that the need for conservation easements, which will focus on maintaining ranch lands north of the Florida Everglades, is urgent.“Bottom line—if we want clean water, we have to protect the landscape. Conservation easements need funding this year!”

SPEND A LITTLE NOW TO SAVE A LOT LATER 

Programs such as Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands Protection are a cost-efficient way to protect our water resources.

It’s been five years since more than 75 percent of voters approved Florida Forever as Constitutional Amendment 1. Thanks to this measure, the state must annually set aside one-third of documentary stamp tax revenue over 20 years to buy, manage and improve conservation lands and water. 

Each year, Amendment 1 accrues up to $300 million. Unfortunately, lawmakers neglected to significantly increase funding for Florida Forever. They fund other environmental projects; including beach restoration projects and waterways conservation in the Everglades, springs throughout the state, and the St. Johns River.

Funding conservation easements on large tracts of land is just as important. 

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“Bottom line—if we want clean water, we have to protect the landscape. Conservation easements need funding this year!”—Julie Morris, The Florida Conservation Group http://www.floridaconserve.org

LAND ACQUISITION UPSTREAM IS CRUCIAL TO CLEAN WATER DOWNSTREAM

Out of his proposed $91.3 billion fiscal year 2020 budget request, Gov. Ron DeSantis has appropriated $100 million for the Florida Forever conservation land acquisition program. This amount represents the highest dedicated annual allocation since the fund has been accruing revenues during the past four years.

The Florida Senate proposed providing $45 million for Florida Forever, while the state’s House proposed $20 million for the program in their environmental budget. 

Ranch landscapes are under threat of development. Ranchers who choose to keep their acreage as close to pristine wilderness as possible are hard-working people who care for the land and water. In fact, cattle operations are a low-intensity land use, because unlike neighborhoods, ranches actually store and clean water. Cattle are a low-intensity use of the land.

LEGISLATORS HAVE NEGLECTED TO ADEQUATELY FUND CONSERVATION LAND PROGRAMS

Prior to the 2008 recession, Florida Forever regularly received approximately $300 million. That amount has dwindled ever since. Lawmakers will soon decide how much funding they will allocate to these important land protection programs. Please share this article and the above video; which explains why Conservation Easements are worthy for funding at requested amounts, via email and social media.   Protected Florida prairie land

RANCHERS EXPLAIN THEIR ROLE IN KEEPING FLORIDA GREEN

Rancher Brad Phares recently addressed a meeting of the Association of Florida Conservation Districts (AFCD). He spoke about Florida’s ranching history, ranchers’ contributions today in keeping our state green, challenges the ranching industry faces in coming years and the need for land preservation via conservation easements.  

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to help share our story,” said Phares in a Facebook post. “Y’all can have all that concrete and asphalt. I’ll stick to Florida the way she used to be.”

STEWARDS OF THE LAND

Conservation easements protect our water and wildlife in cost-effective ways, making ranchers responsible for the management of this precious land in perpetuity. That means that even when cattle prices drop, conservation easements provide an option to ranchers to conserve their lands.

Florida is growing; real-estate prices are rising, but our intact landscapes are disappearing. Protecting our waterways means protecting the watershed.

Politicians need to realize that fixing problems downstream is futile without protecting what is upstream.

CALL THESE LEGISLATORS TODAY

Everyone around the world who cares about the future of Florida’s drinking water must take action! Let the following legislators know that We the People support funding Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and Florida Forever.

  • Senator Rob Bradley, Chair of Appropriations  (850) 487-5005
  • Senator Wilton Simpson, Vice Chair of Appropriations  (850) 487-5010
  • Senator Debbie Mayfield,   Chair of Appropriations Subcommmitee on Agriculture, Environment (850) 487-5017
  • Senator Bobby Powell, Vice Chair of Appropriations Subcommmitee on Agriculture, Environment (850) 487-5030
  • Rep. Travis Cummings, Chair of House Appropriations (850) 717-5018
  • Rep. Dane Eagle, Vice Chair of House Appropriations (850) 717-5077
  • Rep. Holly Raschein, Chair of House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee  (850) 717-5120
  • Rep. Rick Roth, Vice Chair of House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee (850) 717-5085

©️Jill Cueni-Cohen

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