Audubon Advocate: Land Conservation Funding Advances in Senate, Protections Passed for Sensitive Rookery Island & More

Senate Bills to Fund Florida Forever, Springs and St. Johns River Advance

Last Thursday, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee passed two important bills unanimously: Senate Bill 370 (SB 370) and Senate Bill 204 (SB 204) sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island)!

  • PASSED TO FINAL COMMITTEE: SB 370 provides $100 million to Florida Forever, our state’s signature land conservation program.
  • PASSED TO FINAL COMMITTEE: SB 204 would allocate $75 million to springs protection and $50 million to St. Johns River restoration.

A good sign, both bills have flown through several committees and are now in the full Senate Appropriations Committee. Thanks to Senator Bradley for his leadership for conservation!

Success! State Creates New Critical Wildlife Area in Volusia County Thanks to Audubon Chapter Support

Last Wednesday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) unanimously voted to create the Port Orange Critical Wildlife Area. These state protections enable the posting of a water buffer around this vulnerable pelican, heron, and oystercatcher rookery island. Buffers like this one protect vulnerable sites from human disturbance.

This huge victory is on the heels of last November’s designation of 13 new and five expanded Critical Wildlife Areas statewide, a major Audubon initiative.

Special congratulations to Halifax River Audubon leaders who nominated the site, and thanks to advocates from Santa Fe Audubon and Audubon of the Western Everglades who testified in support of the designation at last week’s FWC meeting in Gainesville!

Senate President Negron Named Champion of the Everglades

This afternoon, Audubon Florida presented Senate President Joe Negron with the Champion of the Everglades Award for his steadfast leadership in advancing the restoration of America’s Everglades. President Negron led the Florida Senate when Senate Bill 10 (2017), a key Everglades restoration bill, was passed and later signed into law. President Negron accepted the award at his district office today in Stuart, where harmful algae blooms linked to discharges from Lake Okeechobee plagued the community in recent years. 

“Audubon Florida has been a strong partner in the ongoing effort to reduce and one day eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee that destroy our environment and harm our economy,” said President Negron. “I am honored to receive this award and look forward to working with Audubon in the future as we continue to closely monitor the implementation of Senate Bill 10 and other legislative efforts to restore and protect Florida’s environment and natural resources.” Read more

Transitions at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation, New Commissioners and Executive Director

Several transitions are underway at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Last Thursday, Eric Sutton was named as the agency's next executive director. Prior to the appointment, Sutton served as the agency’s deputy executive director. Outgoing Executive Director Nick Wiley is leaving Florida to serve as Ducks Unlimited’s conservation chief based in Memphis. 

Gov. Scott also recently announced that Commissioners Ron Bergeron and Leisa Priddy would be replaced since their terms had ended. Gary Nicklaus and Sonya Rood were named to fill their seats. Additionally, last week's commission meeting was Chair Brian Yablonski’s final meeting since he is relocating to serve as the executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center in Montana.

Commissioners Bo Rivard (Panama City) and Robert Spottswood (Florida Keys) were elected Chair and Vice Chair respectively. Audubon thanks Outgoing Director Wiley, Outgoing Chair Yablonski, Commissioner Bergeron, and Commissioner Priddy for their hard work on behalf of Florida’s wildlife. We congratulate Incoming Executive Director Sutton, Incoming Chair Rivard, and Incoming Vice Chair Spottswood on their new roles! And Audubon warmly welcomes Commissioners Nicklaus and Rood.

We look forward to working with FWC's leadership and staff to continue protecting our state’s vulnerable and irreplaceable resources.

Tallahassee Democrat Joins Other Papers in Opposing Removal of Tree Protections

Audubon continues closely watching two bills, Senate Bill 574 and House Bill 521, that would prohibit or severely limit municipalities from protecting trees with local tree ordinances. The Tallahassee Democrat announced their opposition this weekend to the measures, joining the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Local tree protections do not just preserve the aesthetic character of our communities. Protecting our urban forests helps provide essential habitat for migrant and resident birds, protect urban air quality, and reduce the “heat island” effect of paved urban areas. Audubon remains opposed to these bills in their current form and is working to communicate our concerns to the sponsors and stakeholders.

Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter for the latest. To date, the bills have been referred to several committees, but have not yet been added to any agendas for future hearings.

*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.

Everglades Funding 

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.

Springs Funding             

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.

Other Issues

Audubon is seeking $5 million for Lake Apopka Restoration.

How you can help, right now