In 1855, the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund was
created as an agency of the Florida government. In 1841, the U.S.
government had granted each state in the union 500,000 acres.
Combined with the land received as a result of the Swamp and
Overflowed Lands Act of 1850, the Trustees had more than 21 million
acres under its control. Since then, Florida has worked to protect
and conserve natural resources.
History of Florida's Conservation Efforts: Preservation
2000 and Florida Forever
Florida is one of the few states in the eastern United States with
large natural areas remaining. The draining of the Everglades in the
1930s began an era of rampant growth in Florida. Since the 1950s,
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
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.
- 1968: Established a $20 million bond program to acquire
outdoor recreation lands.
- 1972: Allocated an additional $40 million for an outdoor
recreation bond and established a $200 million Environmentally
Endangered Lands (EEL) program.
- 1979: Established the Conservation and Recreation Lands
- 1981: Developed Save Our Coast (SOC) and Save Our Rivers (SOR)
- 1990: Established the Florida Preservation 2000
- 2000: Started the Florida Forever program.
Beginning of Preservation 2000
As Florida’s human population grew, it became apparent that
increasing demands would be placed on Florida’s natural resources.
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 that stated at
the 1990 rate of development about three million acres of wetlands
and forests would be converted to other uses by the year 2020. The
report predicted the decline of much of Florida’s freshwater aquifer
recharge areas, unique ecological diversity, open space, recreation
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
In response, former Governor Martinez proposed a $3 billion land
preservation fund based upon $300 million in yearly bonded funds
over 10 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 were 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 1.8 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
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.
The enormous success of the P2000 program continued under
former Governor Jeb Bush's administration. Former Governor Bush and the Florida
Legislature created the Florida Forever program in 1999,
which proposed 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 by former Governor Bush and the Legislature for the
Florida Forever program, Florida's first decade in the new
millennium was 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. The Florida Forever
Act added several goals and measures meant to guide the acquisition
process. It placed a greater emphasis on urban and community parks
and on protecting water resources and the water supply.
The Future of Florida Forever
In 2008, former Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Legislature extended
Florida Forever for another ten years, through 2020, at the same
funding level. Although the program remains fundamentally unchanged,
the legislature added several more reporting requirements, provided
for more prioritization of projects within several categories and
provided for spending Florida Forever
funds on capital improvements on state-owned conservation lands. The
allocation of Florida Forever funding was changed:
Conservation Land Benefits
- 35%: Conservation and Recreation Lands.
- 30%: Water Resources.
- 21%: Florida Communities Trust.
- 3.5%: Rural and Family Lands.
- 2.5%: Working Waterfronts.
- 1.5%: Wildlife Management Areas (additions).
- 1.5%: State Forests (additions).
- 1.5%: State Parks (additions).
- 1.5%: Greenways and Trails.
- 2%: Development of Recreation Facilities.
Florida Forever and other conservation efforts throughout
Florida produce considerable economic and quality of life benefits
- Clean air and water.
- Reduced needs and taxpayer costs for public roads and
- Healthy fisheries & wildlife habitat.
- Protected open spaces, including greenway corridors, park
lands, forests and public beaches.
- Public enjoyment of a natural Florida.
Florida’s estuaries and offshore waters support one of the
largest commercial and recreation 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. 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
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.