House subcommittee greenlights $100M Florida Forever plan

Increased priority would go to projects within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

The state’s land acquisition efforts for environmental conservation could get a planned annual $100 million under the requirements of a proposed committee bill from the House Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee.

“The past few years we have worked to better protect (the state’s natural resources) by passing important legislation codifying the Florida Wildlife Corridor and giving record funding for acquiring lands under the Florida Forever Program,” said subcommittee Chairman James Buchanan, an Osprey Republican.

“With this bill, we’ll be building on those efforts to ensure we are able to be efficient in acquiring lands to protect and preserve the natural beauty of Florida.”

The subcommittee unanimously passed the bill.

In addition to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) dedicating $100 million annually to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, the legislation would increase the contract price requiring approval from the Internal Improvement Trust Fund Board from $1 million to $5 million.

“Having consistent, predictable funding is critically important for meeting our state’s land conservation goals, and we strongly support that,” said Will Abberger, Conservation Finance Director for the Trust for Public Land.

“I want to particularly recognize Rep. (Rick) Roth, who’s been supporting this concept in his bills for the past couple of Sessions. We’d rather see more like $251 million, which is in your budget this year, or even $300 million, which is our position, as a meaningful amount of funding for Florida Forever, but $100 million is a great start.”

DEP would also have to disclose appraisals to private landowners, or their representatives, during negotiations. The bill clarifies as well that the Board or DEP can acquire land for the full value of the highest approved appraisal.

Increased priority would go to projects within the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and those in “imminent danger of development, loss of significant natural attributes or recreational open space, or subdivision,” according to the House staff analysis.

Regarding the Rural Family Lands Protection Program, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would have to update the lands program’s priority list by December, give priority to lands in the Corridor along with those “in imminent danger of development or degradation,” and provide for the disclosure of appraisal reports to private landowners during negotiations for acquisition.

The bill also moves the review of state-owned lands from every 10 years to every five years to determine if those lands should remain in public hands or be disposed of.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:

One comment

  • tom palmer

    March 28, 2023 at 1:38 pm

    $100M is better than nothing, but much less than what the voters approved several years ago. Two questions come to mind. Why does the state have to pay the highest appraisal? That doesn’t seem a good deal for the taxpayers. Why is the evaluation of possible surplus lands more frequent? Makes you wonder what’s going on in the backroom.

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