Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), commended Gov. Ron DeSantis for including millions of dollars for environmental initiatives in a budget proposal unveiled Thursday.
“Gov. DeSantis continues to solidify the importance of our fish and wildlife resources,” Barreto said in a statement Thursday. “Everyone wants what we have here in the fishing and boating capital of the world, and we will continue to provide opportunities for residents and visitors because of the leadership of Gov. DeSantis.”
The FWC spotlighted just under $54 million in funding items included in DeSantis’ proposed $99.7 billion budget that would help conservation efforts. That includes $4.2 million for red tide research, $3.8 million for manatee care and $3 million for restoration of lakes, rivers and springs, among other items.
FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton also added his praise for the budget’s focus on environmental issues.
“I want to thank Gov. DeSantis for his unwavering support for Florida’s natural resources and we are proud of the conservation successes we are achieving under his leadership,” Sutton said. “Florida’s natural resources are abundant and we will continue to work hard to conserve and manage these great resources for future generations.”
The FWC statement also identified $17.5 million for additional resources for law enforcement. That money could help catch individuals violating state laws relating to the environment.
The budget will also presumably add hundreds of millions for water conservation initiatives not spotlighted in the FWC statement. DeSantis has promised $2.5 billion in water quality funding over his first term in office. Final funding levels will be negotiated during the 2022 Legislative Session, which begins in January.
The 2022-23 fiscal year budget proposal from DeSantis would be a slight reduction from last year’s budget, which topped out at $101.5 billion. Federal pandemic funding approved by Congress boosted last year’s budget. DeSantis is dubbing this year’s version the “Freedom First” budget.
“Freedom works in Florida. We’re proud of that,” he said. “We’re proud of being viewed as the ‘free state,’ and I think that the economic results are something that have been very, very positive.”