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HISTORY OF FLORIDA’S CONSERVATION EFFORTS

Florida is one of the few states in the eastern United States with large naturall areas remaining. The draining of the Everglades in the 1930’s began an era of Preservation 2000rampant growth in Florida which now threatens to destroy the state’s unique ecosystems. Since the 1950’s, Florida’s population has risen at an annual rate of approximately four percent. In the last 50 years, more than eight million acres of forest and wetland habitats (about 24 percent of the state) have been cleared to accommodate the expanding human population. In 1990, about 19 acres per hour of forest wetland and agricultural land was being converted for urban uses. Because of this growth, Florida’s ecosystems are now considered the most endangered of all fifty states.

Fortunately, Florida has a long tradition of conservation – it is the site of the nation’s first wildlife refuge (Pelican Island) and the first eastern national forest (Ocala National Forest). Over the years the state has implemented several substantial land acquisition programs to save native
landscape from development. Some of these efforts include:

• 1964: Establishing a $20 million bond program to acquire outdoor recreational lands.
• 1972: Creating another $40 million outdoor recreation bond and establishing a $200 million Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) program.
• 1979: Establishing the Conservation and Recreational Lands (CARL) Program.
• 1981: Developing Save Our Coast (SOC) and Save Our Rivers (SOR) programs.
• 1990: Establishing the Florida Preservation 2000 program.
• 2000: Beginning the Florida Forever program.


BEGINNING OF PRESERVATION 2000

As Florida’s human population continued to grow, it became apparent that increasing demands would be placed on what remained of natural Florida. As a result, former Governor Bob Martinez created a blue-ribbon commission in 1990 to evaluate the state of Florida’s environment. The commission conducted its work and issued a report warning that, at the 1990 rate of development, about three million acres of wetlands and forests would be converted to other uses by the year 2020, dooming much of Florida’s freshwater aquifer recharge areas, unique ecological diversity, open space, recreational lands, and many of the state’s 548 species of endangered and threatened animals and plants. The commission concluded that “the single most effective way to accomplish large scale gains in our environmental well-being is to substantially increase the level of funding for the state’s land acquisition programs.”

According to a November 1989 Florida State University poll, 88 percent of Floridians believed state government should give more attention to the environment and 63 percent favored spending more money on the environment. In short, the commission found that there was “strong, statewide public support for an expanded land acquisition program.”

In response, Governor Martinez proposed a $3 billion land preservation fund based upon $300 million in yearly bonded funds over ten years. Florida lawmakers agreed with his proposal, and in 1990 provided funding for the first year of bonds in the form of an increase in documentary stamp tax. Thus Preservation 2000 (P2000), the most ambitious land acquisition program in the United States, was created. P2000 established a mechanism for supplemental funding of existing land acquisition programs. P2000 funds are distributed in the following way:

• 50%: Conservation and Recreation Lands
• 30%: Water Resources
• 10%: Local Government Comprehensive Plan Implementation
• 2.9%: Wildlife Management Areas (additions)
• 2.9%: State Forests (additions)
• 2.9%: State Parks (additions)
• 1.3%: Greenways and Trails

P2000 has preserved more than 1.75 million acres of conservation land throughout Florida.  These lands help preserve Florida’s biological heritage and ensures that future generations will be able to experience the remaining vestiges of natural Florida. The program has been successful in saving many of Florida’s unique and fragile environmental habitats and spawning local community conservation efforts. More than 20 local governments in Florida have matched state funds to purchase environmentally sensitive lands to fulfill their conservation needs.

Florida ForeverThe enormous success of the P2000 program has continued under Governor Jeb Bush's administration.  Governor Bush and the Florida Legislature created the Florida Forever Program in 1999, which proposes to raise another $300 million per year over a 10 year period - or $3 billion - to continue to save and preserve Florida's significant natural and cultural resources.  With the continued support of the Governor and the Legislature for the Florida Forever program, Florida's first decade in the new millennium will be an enormous success in protecting endangered and threatened plants and animals, water resources - including our drinking water supplies, and in providing the public with new areas for resource-based outdoor recreation.

CONSERVATION LAND BENEFITS

Florida Forever and other conservation efforts throughout Florida produce considerable economic and quality of life benefits such as:

• Clean air and water;
• Reduced needs and taxpayer costs for public roads, utilities, etc.;
• Healthy fisheries & wildlife habitat;
• Protected open spaces including greenway corridors, park lands, forests and public beaches; and
• Public enjoyment of a natural Florida.

Florida’s estuaries and offshore waters support one of the largest commercial and recreational marine fishing industries in the nation, however, it relies on undisturbed estuarine and coastal systems. Local governments have realized that acquiring land for conservation purposes saves taxpayers money by reducing needs for additional crime control, infrastructure and community services. P2000 and Florida Forever have also helped to save many of Florida’s beaches, rivers, bays, forests, coral reefs and estuaries that provide the foundation for our $3 billion tourism industry which attracts more than 70 million visitors each year.

The conservation lands acquired under P2000 and Florida Forever will make an enormous positive contribution to future generations living in Florida and to its natural wonders. These programs offer the opportunity to conserve and protect Florida’s biological and cultural elements for future generations to enjoy.

For More Information: Contact the Division of State Lands, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (850) 245-2555

       

 

 

Last updated: February 06, 2009

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