ADVOCATE: "Parks, not Paper Clips" Continues, CRC Ramps up, Everglades Reservoir, and More
Audubon Continues Campaign to Target Conservation Dollars for More Conservation Projects
Audubon is closely monitoring Sen. Rob Bradley’s Senate Bill 370 (SB 370). The bill heads to the full Florida Senate for a floor vote and provides a much-needed boost of $100 million to Florida Forever, our state’s signature land conservation program. On the House side, Representative Beshears introduced the same bill, and it has been referred to several committees for consideration.
We still need your help: The Parks, not Paper Clips campaign has secured 4,000 signatures to ensure conservation dollars are used for conservation purposes, not agency administrative costs. Thank you to the Audubon advocates who signed on to the petition. In recent years, Land and Water Legacy Amendment (Amendment 1) funds have been used to cover agency operations, leaving less for essential land conservation programs. To ensure state conservation dollars are used for conservation purposes, add your name to Audubon’s petition and share with your friends and family.
Water Policy Moving in Both Senate and House
Audubon is monitoring Senate Bill 1402 (SB 1402) and House Bill 7043 (HB 7043) closely. Sen. Simmons’s SB 1402 will be heard in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee next week. A House committee also approved companion legislation this week as a committee bill, now HB 7043. This legislation paves the way for the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to receive delegation of the federal EPA's Clean Water Act 404 dredge and fill permitting program and would delegate certain permitting authority to DEP for dredge and fill activities previously permitted by the federal government. Changes to environmental permitting may impact wetlands and other important bird habitats, and Audubon is asking hard questions about how this work can be added to DEP's responsibilities without increased permitting and enforcement staff.
Audubon Cheers Sen. Nelson's Move to Permanently ban Drilling off Florida's Coasts
In a statement released this week, Audubon Florida Interim Executive Director Julie Wraithmell applauded congressional moves to permanently ban oil and gas drilling off of Florida’s coasts saying:
“Florida’s Atlantic Coast and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico are no place for dangerous offshore drilling, and we applaud the bipartisan efforts in Congress to protect our coasts. Our state is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and rarest wildlife in the world. The risks of offshore drilling are simply not worth putting our coastal communities, natural resources, and economic vitality at risk. Thank you, Sen. Nelson and Rep. Castor, for leading this bipartisan effort to protect natural Florida. Senator Nelson led the charge for the essential RESTORE Act after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and we applaud his recent move in the U.S. Senate seeking permanent protections for Florida’s coasts.”
Senator Bill Nelson filed the Florida Coastal Protection Act to permanently ban oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coasts in the U.S. Senate last week. Representative Kathy Castor, with co-sponsors Reps. Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings, Stephanie Murphy, Francis Rooney and Darren Soto, also has companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Legislature Hears Updates on key Everglades Reservoir Project
This week the Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee got updates on the implementation of Senate Bill 10 (2017) from South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Ernie Marks. The bill, now law, was deemed the biggest environmental victory of 2017. Planning is well underway for the reservoir tasked with diminishing harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges to the northern estuaries and conveying freshwater flows to the Southern Everglades. Audubon will continue to follow the development of this important project to ensure that it will achieve ecological benefits and the goals stipulated in state law. Listen to Audubon’s Celeste De Palma share her thoughts on WFSU.
Constitution Revision Commission Ramps up
The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) meets once every 20 years to examine the Florida Constitution and proposes changes for voter consideration. Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, President of the Florida Senate, Speaker of the Florida House, and the Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice. The Attorney General also automatically serves on the CRC. The CRC is currently meeting to develop and recommend changes to the Florida Constitution. Any proposals that pass the CRC’s final vote would be placed on the general election ballot (November 6, 2018) and must win at least 60 percent voter approval to become law.
One proposal under consideration is what some are calling the “super preemption” proposal, Proposal 95. Prop. 95 would have sweeping implications for conservation if passed. Environmental protections and other local ordinances by Florida cities and counties would be severely limited under Prop. 95. Audubon is currently monitoring all CRC proposals impacting Florida’s land and water resources, and we’ll keep you updated on important updates from the CRC.
*The Governor’s budget recommendations also included $50 million for State Parks, which includes ongoing management expenses.
Audubon Florida's Legislative Priorities
Land Conservation Funding
Audubon supports agency budget requests for Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program that recommend strong funding for land acquisition and conservation easements. Audubon is seeking $150 million for land conservation.
With the successful passage of the Legacy Florida Act in 2016 and Senate Bill 10 in 2017, we must continue to follow through on commitments to restoring America’s Everglades. Audubon supports the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Legislative Budget Request that seeks $305.8 million in Everglades funding- the largest single request ever by the agency.
Funds appropriated by the Florida Legislature can be leveraged with other funding sources to advance springs projects and programs to improve water quality and increase freshwater flows. Audubon is seeking $50 million for Florida’s springs.
Audubon is seeking $5 million for Lake Apopka Restoration.