As the Florida Legislature wraps up its annual session, here’s one final deal that should be cut to make a permanent difference. The Senate unanimously voted more than a month ago for legislation that would ensure the Florida Forever land conservation program would annually receive $100 million a year. The House has not brought the bill up for a vote, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran could leave a lasting environmental legacy by making that happen today.
Perhaps Senate President Joe Negron could nudge Corcoran in the right direction in the final horse-trading. Permanently setting aside $100 million a year for Florida Forever is a modest request. The Legislature funded the conservation program at $300 million a year for decades. The money enables the governor and Cabinet to protect the state’s most precious natural resources. Those resources help ensure our drinking water remains clean and available, our wildlife is protected and our best wilderness areas are preserved for future generations.
Yet even though there are more than 2 million acres on a priority list to be purchased or preserved through long-term easements, the Legislature has largely gutted the program for eight years. To their credit, lawmakers have agreed this session to spend $100.8 million on Florida Forever in 2018-19. It’s not too much to ask Corcoran to pass the legislation today that was approved weeks ago by the Senate, SB 370, and ensure there is a commitment to spend at least that much in future years.