Make the Call for Wild Florida
Dear <<First Name>>,
The Florida state legislative session is in full swing and our legislators have come out swinging – against programs that protect the lands and waters we love and that are vital for wildlife. Last week, I journeyed to Tallahassee to educate our elected officials about the need to adequately fund Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. These programs protect valuable natural and agricultural lands and waters that benefit Floridians and wildlife. What I heard dismayed me and I urge you to speak with your elected officials today and ask them to protect our state’s future. Please also see my op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times.
In the current budget, the House has stripped all funding for land and water protection. The Senate has recommended just over $22 million for these programs combined. This is a far cry from the historic $300 million that was invested during the height of Florida Forever, which resulted in significant wins for our wildest places.
Both Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Land Protection Program include priority conservation easement programs, which pay farmers and ranchers NOT to develop their lands. Easement programs have support from conservationists, landowners and legislators as they keep land in private ownership and on the tax rolls, ultimately reducing the cost to taxpayers, while conserving habitat for wildlife. Lands containing wetlands and other habitats also maintain vital freshwater. Privately owned lands, like cattle ranches, are also one of our best opportunities for ensuring the survival of wildlife, like the Florida panther. These impressive predators rely upon both publicly-owned areas, like the Everglades National Park, and privately-owned cattle ranches in the Greater Everglades.
We celebrated a massive milestone last week when Florida panther kittens were documented north of the Caloosahatchee River (NAT GEO BLOG, Tampa Bay Times article). This proves that its habitat range is expanding, in large part due to the successful partnerships between landowners and conservation entities. Protecting large, contiguous habitats is possible through federal and state-funded easement programs, but not without adequate funding.
Last month, a 19-year-old conservationist - Oscar Psychas - walked 300 miles from his home in Gainesville to Tallahassee to increase awareness about the need to fund conservation programs. He was inspired by the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition and planned his route along parts of the Florida National Scenic Trail and within portions of the Suwannee River - a critical east-west linkage in the Corridor. Arriving on the steps of the capitol on March 7th - the 1st day of the legislative session - he spoke passionately about protecting the Florida he loves for his grandchildren. The Florida Wildlife Corridor joined him for a portion of his walk along the Suwannee River and created this 360° virtual reality video “A Walk for Wild Florida” about his journey.
Today, it’s your turn. Our legislators will revisit the budget this week. You still have the ability and the responsibility to influence how your taxpayer dollars are spent. If you value our wild places and our working landscapes, please contact your legislators today and ask them to fully fund Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. You can search for your legislators here (Senate, House) and call these key officials:
Senator Jack Latvala: (850) 487-5016
Senator Rob Bradley: (850) 487-5005
Speaker Richard Corcoran: (850) 717-5000
Representative Ben Albritton: (850) 717-5056
Example text for your legislators:
“Please allocate $100 million each to Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. These programs protect valuable natural and agricultural lands that benefit Floridians and wildlife. In particular, conservation easements keep productive lands in private ownership, while providing important ecosystem benefits, like fresh food and water. These are essential services and investment in these programs is a good use of taxpayer dollars. I care about the future of our state and ask that you adequately invest in protecting the lands and waters that make Florida a great place to live, work and play.”
For the future of our state and the places we love, your voice matters!
Yours in conservation,
A girl can dream...