Florida Wildlife Corridor Act Signing Ceremony by All DeSantis Environmentalists

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Earlier this year, state lawmakers doubled funding for the Florida Forever land conservation program to $ 100 million. They also agreed to allocate $ 300 million in federal funding for land conservation. This bill encourages much of the money to go towards purchasing links in the wildlife corridor, providing a continuous path for animals to migrate.

At Monday’s bill signing ceremony, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that over the past two years, the state has acquired nearly 70,000 acres through Florida Forever – more than the previous four years combined.

“The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act is the culmination of a decade of effort by many here today, emphasizing the importance of connected wildlife habitats and land conservation,” he said. .

The money is also ramping up efforts to preserve ranches and working farmland in the corridor through conservation easements – paying landowners to do not sell their land to developers.

Several speakers at the signing said Florida is an example of wildlife conservation for the rest of the country.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor said the bill unites all Floridians.

“It brings together our ranchers, our wildlife conservation community, Republicans and Democrats, people who care about Florida’s future,” he said, “and what the Florida for hundreds of years and how it will look to our children and grandchildren. ”

Tampa Nature Photographer Carlton Ward Jr. has been lobbying for the Wildlife Corridor since at least 2012, when he took the first of two 1,000-mile hikes through Florida as part of the Florida Expedition Wildlife Corridor. The first passed by the Bill signing site at Disney Wilderness Preserve in Osceola County.

Ward said the first 50 days of their first trek barely left the Everglades watershed. It started at the tip of the Everglades National Park and continued into this area of ​​the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

“Florida is leading the country through land conservation programs like Florida Forever and through this Florida Wildlife Corridor Act,” he said. “Through this framework, we will be the national and global example of what is possible for nature and economies together.”

“The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act is the culmination of decades of efforts focused on the importance of connected wildlife habitat and land preservation,” Ward said. “The Florida Wildlife Corridor encompasses 18 million acres of land, and the law encourages and promotes the protection of these lands to prevent damaging fragmentation of wildlife habitat, protect vital sources, support ranches and working farmland, and even more.”

The bill passed with a rare 115-0 vote in the House and a 40-0 vote in the Senate – and they passed a budget that includes the means to pay for it.

The act was a last-minute amendment to an existing bill advocating the protection of the Wekiva River watershed near Orlando inserted by Jason Brodeur, a Seminole County Republican who chairs the Senate Environment and Human Rights Committee. natural resources.

“We’ve been working behind the scenes for years,” said Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, who was with Ward and bear biologist Joe Guthrie on the Florida Wildlife Corridor expedition.

It is the largest spending on land conservation since voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment in 2014 to restore funding to historic levels.

The law includes many provisions:

  • Secure access to habitats for large-scale wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther, and prevent fragmentation of critical lands
  • Protect sources of major watersheds (including Everglades and St. Johns)
  • Help keep farms, land and forests active
  • Preserve land and water to protect coastal estuaries

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