State panel hears Florida Forever pleas

Sat, Apr 17, 2010

2010 archive

Northeast Florida Blueway Project, St. Johns County

City and county officials, ranchers, conservationists and a Florida National Guard representative on Friday pleaded for their favorite land-buying projects and for support for the state’s Florida Forever program.

The statewide land-buying program is the nation’s largest but it’s in jeopardy. Florida Forever received no money from the Legislature last year and it could run out later this year if it doesn’t get money in the 2010-11 budget. The Senate has proposed $15 million in cash for the program in 2010-11 but the House has provided no money in its budget.

On Friday, the state Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) held a public hearing in Tallahassee as part of a new process to rank the more than 100 acquisition projects in five purchase categories.

Council members saw photos of thin coastal barrier islands, river floodplain swamps, expansive saltwater marshes and a ranch surrounded by development. Almost 30 people spoke for protecting drinking water supplies, ranches, historic and cultural sites, wildlife habitat, shellfish, waterways, tourism spots and forests to buffer military training bases.

St. Johns County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson pleaded for protecting the saltwater marshes and streams where she caught fish, clams and crabs while she was growing up. “They support the health and well-being of people and serve as a refuge for native and transitory wildlife,” she said. “Please support — please — the highest ranking so we can support these (projects).”

The ARC Council will hold another hearing May 6 in Arcadia before meeting in June to recommend the project rankings to the governor and Cabinet. For more information on ARC and the state program, go to www.floridaforever.org.

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

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