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House agrees to provide funding for land-buying program

Tue, Apr 20, 2010

2010 archive

The House agreed Tuesday to provide money for Florida Forever, ending a year-long funding drought for the state land-buying program.

The House agreed Tuesday to provide money for Florida Forever, ending a year-long funding drought for the state land-buying program.

Florida Forever is the largest land-buying program in the nation with 2.4 million acres having been conserved since 1990. After receiving $300 million annually in bonding authority since 1990, the program received no new money from the Legislature in 2009. The program, which continued receiving revenue last year from bonds approved in 2008, was at risk of running out of money by the end of this year. House Natural Resources Appropriations Committee members had said this year during meetings that the state’s budget is too tight for land-buying.

The House proposed Tuesday to provide $14 million for Florida Forever after initially designating nothing for it. The House also agreed to spend $11 million on Everglades restoration. Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis and chairman of the Senate General Government Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday night an agreement was not finalized because legislators the possibility of adjusting either amount to take advantage of federal matching dollars. The Senate had allocated $15 million for Florida Forever and $10 million for Everglades restoration.

Rep. Ralph Poppell, R-Vero Beach and chairman of the House Natural Resources Appropriations Committee, said earlier in the day he favored spending money on Everglades restoration rather than Florida Forever because the Everglades brings in federal matching dollars. “I think before we start spending too much on Florida Forever, I think we need to get a handle on what (land) we have and what we need it for,” Poppell said.

Although Florida Forever is receiving less than 5 percent of its previous annual funding, some supporters of the program are pleased that it’s getting money. “I think that’s fantastic,” said Janet Bowman, director of legislative and conservation strategies for The Nature Conservancy. “A month ago we were worried about not getting any funding.”

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Photo and story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)

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