House passes Florida Forever, Wildlife Corridor enhancements

Florida Wildlife Corridor river forest
It awaits action in the Senate.

While similar provisions are in other active bills, HB 7047 would increase the contract price requiring approval from the Internal Improvement Trust Fund Board from $1 million to $5 million, and dedicate $100 million annually to Florida Forever.

The House passed the bill this week without a floor debate and it awaits action in the Senate.

“As we’re all aware, the state plays an important role in protecting our natural resources and the environment,” Osprey Republican Rep. James Buchanan said on the bill’s second reading.

“In the past few years, we’ve worked to better protect those resources by passing important legislation codifying (the) Florida Wildlife Corridor and giving record 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 our 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 a House staff analysis.

The Department of Environmental Protection (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.

“With the state of growth here in the state of Florida, I think it’s very important — time is of the essence as it relates to land conservation and protecting our natural resources,” Buchanan said. 

He went on to say it’s the sort of legislation that makes a legacy. 

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:


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