Dear FCC Members,
Last week, we asked that you write the Legislature in opposition to SB 1290 and HB 1075, and we certainly hope you did. Now, we ask you again to voice your opposition to these bills which propose destructive changes to Florida’s conservation lands policies. This time, however, we would like to address the Governor for the following reasons:
Many parts of these bills were conceived and offered by the Administration and would result in the degradation of our state parks, preserves, and other lands purchased over the past three decades for the purpose of protecting and conserving our natural areas, water and natural resources, and providing world class recreational and leisure opportunities.
For more than four years the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has persistently sought to dispose of and change the allowed use of conservation lands from what they were acquired for to a lesser protected status. DEP proposed to construct an RV park in Honeymoon Island State Park in 2011; this was rejected by the public. In 2013, DEP launched a statewide program to surplus state conservation land and sell it to the highest bidder; this ill-conceived proposal was withdrawn due to widespread public opposition. A 2015 proposal to lease a portion of Myakka River State Park for cattle grazing was withdrawn due to public opposition. And a more recent proposal by DEP to allow various commercial and other inconsistent activities in State Parks was also shelved due to public opposition. This session, having failed so far in its attempts to circumvent the public’s wishes to protect state conservation lands, the Department has worked with the legislature to circumvent the clear will of the people by conceiving and supporting the majority of the provisions in SB 1290 and HB 1075.
We have already asked you to tell the legislature to protect our parks, preserves, forests, and wildlife management areas. It is now time to ask the Governor to intervene to make it clear that he does not support this destructive effort and he wants these bills withdrawn by the sponsors. To use our template to write Governor Scott, click here.
To recapitulate the problems with these bills, SB 1290/HB 1075 threaten Florida’s ability to acquire, preserve and manage state conservation lands and must be withdrawn or amended:
- Provisions within Section 5 and Section 6 allow the State to surplus and sell state lands when it determines that the land's short-term management goals are not being met, if it is not actively managed by any state agency, or if a management plan has not been completed. Failure to meet short-term management goals, an incomplete management plan, or lack of active management may be a direct result of inadequate land management funding by the Legislature, or other temporary or avoidable situations, and should not be used as an excuse to dispose of conservation lands. Instead, the Legislature should ensure adequate funding for the management of Florida's conservation lands.
- Another provision within Section 6 directs the Division of State Lands to review all state-owned conservation lands every ten years to determine whether any can be surplused. This is a duplicative and unnecessary provision since each land management plan requires a review for surplus on a rotating basis when the management plan is updated.
- Language in Section 8 allows private land owners who own land contiguous to state-owned lands to exchange it for the state-owned land, including state park land, if the state is given a permanent conservation easement over both parcels in the exchange. Conservation easements are often less protective of the environment than the management plans for state-owned land, resulting in practices that diminish the conservation values of the lands. Placing state lands in private ownership also reduces the ability of the state to comprehensively manage conservation lands. Finally, this type of exchange will often result in the loss of public access to lands that are currently owned by the state, diminishing the recreational value of the land. This daunting prospect would have a significantly negative impact on such beloved places as Paynes Prairie State Park and Myakka River State Park were they to be placed into private ownership under this provision.
- A policy change in Section 14 allows money from Florida Forever, the state's premiere land acquisition program, to be used to fund all water resource development hardware, including the construction of treatment, transmission, and distribution facilities. Utilizing Florida Forever funds for the construction of water supply infrastructure is currently prohibited under state law. This change comes on the heels of Floridians overwhelmingly approving Amendment 1 in an effort to restore funding for land acquisition. With billions of dollars needed for water infrastructure projects around the state, this provision could readily exhaust the funds set aside in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, leaving inadequate funding available for acquiring conservation land, and negating the benefits of Amendment 1.
- Finally, language in Sections 15, 17, 21 and 22 allow state lands to be managed for conservation OR recreational purposes, deleting the requirement that state lands be managed in accordance with the purpose for which they were acquired. This could result in conservation lands being managed solely for recreational purposes, which might include converting natural lands into golf courses and other such inappropriate uses, harming the conservation value of the lands and betraying the original intent of acquiring the lands.
Please let the Governor and, if you have not yet done so, your legislators know that these bills are unacceptable and ask the Legislature to withdraw them or vote them down. Ask them to take the time to carefully consider the public’s views and concerns and work with the conservation community and the public to determine if any needs to alter the state’s land acquisition and management policies exist. We know it is the legislature who makes the decision to pass bills, but we need a clear statement from Governor Scott that he understands that the public does not want their lands tampered with nor Florida Forever dollars spent for infrastructure projects.
To find your legislators, click here. To use our template to write Governor Scott, click here.
The member organizations and individuals that make up the Florida Conservation Coalition are working diligently on this important issue. But it’s people like you, writing and calling these public officials, who will have the most effect in determining the outcome.
Governor Scott email@example.com (850) 488- 7146
Florida Conservation Coalition