Wishful thinking? Florida Forever still alive, supporters say

Supporters of the Florida Forever land-buying program say reports that the program is dead in fiscal year 2009-10 are premature.

The state has purchased 2.4 million acres since 1990 under Florida Forever and a predecessor program, making it the largest conservation land-buying program in the nation and a top priority for environmental groups each year.

Gov. Charlie Crist requested $300 million for the program again in next year’s budget. The Senate proposed $50 million for Florida Forever and another $50 million for Everglades restoration but the House stripped both amounts from SB 2430, dealing with documentary stamp tax collections.

House Speaker Larry Cretul said Tuesday the program is dead and won’t be discussed in budget conference committees.

“It’s hard to go back home and tell folks that you’re out spending upwards of $100 million buying land and taking it off the tax rolls and not being able to find the money for the other things,” Cretul said, according to The News Service of Florida.

But the Florida Forever Coalition today sent an alert to its members stating that Florida Forever remains alive and rejecting news media interpretations (See alert here).

“This bill must be negotiated by the two houses (in a Senate-House budget conference) — and, with the correct outcome, Florida Forever funding will be realized,” the coalition said.