The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would annually dedicate $100 million to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund under proposals contained in a bill the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee has approved.
In addition, HB 7047 would increase the contract price requiring approval from the Internal Improvement Trust Fund Board from $1 million to $5 million.
“We’re all aware of the important role the state has in protecting our natural resources, and the environment,” said Osprey Republican Rep. James Buchanan.
“In the past few years, we’ve worked to better protect those resources by passing important legislation codifying the Florida Wildlife Corridor, and giving further funding for acquiring lands under the Florida Forever program. With this bill, we will be building on those efforts to ensure we are able to efficiently acquire lands to protect and preserve the natural beauty of the state.”
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.
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.
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.
Representatives of Audubon Florida and the Trust for Public Land waived in support.
“As we move through time, I think this bill is going to put us in a better posture to enhance the Wildlife Corridor, and many other programs that we’re trying to accomplish, in a timely manner,” Tavares Republican Rep. Keith Truemow said.
It now awaits action in the House Infrastructure Strategies Committee.