Conservation in the State Capitol
Audubon Florida is hopeful for meaningful conservation progress in the new year. Incoming Governor Ron DeSantis is vocal in support for Everglades Restoration and addressing the twin catastrophes of blue-green algae and red tide that plagued South Florida in 2018. At the same time, incoming Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has the opportunity to address agricultural best management practices (“BMPs”) for water quality and nutrient issues that contribute to harmful algal blooms.
Legislators with proven track records on conservation are occupying key leadership roles in both legislative houses this year. Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) appointed Sen. Ron Bradley (R-Green Cove Springs) as chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations committee, which holds the keys to land conservation programs (Florida Forever and Rural and Family Lands), Everglades and springs restoration funding, and more. On the House side, Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) is the chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and Vice Chair of the accompanying policy committee. Audubon will be working with these leaders and more to protect Florida’s environment including advancing Everglades restoration, securing funds for land conservation, and combatting Florida’s water crises.
Conservation in the Courts
Florida Audubon Society is also fighting in the courts. We expect a ruling soon on our challenge to block a harmful boardwalk across a state-owned lagoon and onto shorebird nesting habitat in Fort Myers Beach. The South Florida Water Management District’s move in the courts to abandon important Everglades water quality standards will need our attention this year. And finally, working with our partners the Trust for Public Land, Florida Conservation Voters, and Everglades Foundation, we filed an amicus brief in a dispute between the Florida Legislature and some other environmental organizations on the Water and Land Legacy Amendment (2014’s “Amendment 1”). While in mid-2018, a judge ruled that the Legislature improperly spent Amendment 1 dollars on non-conservation uses, he went further and ruled that all funds from Amendment 1 can only be used for acquisition of land or the management of land acquired after 2014. This narrow definition is in stark contrast to the Amendment’s language and could gut important funding for water resource protection, springs and Everglades restoration, and land management of all public conservation lands. Audubon was a leader in the effort to pass Amendment 1 in 2014 and is committed to ensuring the voters’ will for funding conservation is met. Stay tuned as these issues work their way through the judicial process.
At Audubon Florida
Audubon’s capacity in Tallahassee is growing this year—recent additions to the Audubon team include Beth Alvi, Director of Policy. Beth brings a wealth of policy expertise, especially in water issues, after years of service at the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection. Joshua Romero joins as the new Legislative Director; a Marine and law enforcement veteran, he earned acclaim as a legislative aide, a grassroots organizer, and climate advocate. At a time when Florida needs all hands on deck, Audubon is investing in the capacity needed to deliver results.