BRADENTON – In past years, Florida Forever, and its predecessor, Preservation 2000, received as much as $300 million per year with which it purchased millions of acres of sensitive land and conservation easements to ensure the protection of open spaces, animal habitats and water resources. But despite the Governor's request for $25 million in new revenues for the 2014 budget, the Florida legislature only provided $10 million in new general revenue. The group says that while they are grateful for any and all funding, they will be inadequately resourced to protect critical lands.
The Florida Forever Coalition had sought $100 million for the program this year. But while the budget shows $70 million, the group says that figure is distorted because $50 million of it would be available only from sale of other conservation lands.
"But no one knows what existing parks, forests and wildlife areas may be sold off for that purpose and most people are very skeptical of the plan," the group said in a statement to the press.
"The current Florida Forever priority list identifies almost 2 million acres in need of protection, and this does not include the land acquisition needs of water management districts or local governments," the statement continued. "With Florida’s economy recovering, we must again invest in protecting the most important places before they are lost to development. While even the small amount of funding provided this year is welcome, it is simply inadequate to save what we must to keep Florida ecologically and economically sustainable."