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Audubon Florida
The Advocate
Legislative committee meetings began this week in the run-up to the March 2023 Legislative Session. At the end of each committee week and each week of Session, you can count on Audubon to keep you up to speed on the issues facing Florida’s environment and let you know when your voice can make a real difference.

Our commitment to funding for natural resources agencies, landmark conservation land-buying programs, investment in resource protection, and Everglades and freshwater spring restoration are among our highest priorities. We recognize that in this session there will be opportunities for hurricane recovery and rebuilding.  We will be advocating for a strategic approach to rebuild our communities and natural landscapes with an eye toward future storms. We need to use this opportunity to build greater resilience into our communities so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Two waterbirds in a treetop
Double-crested Cormorants. Photo: Mike Smeets/Great Backyard Bird Count.
Do You Know Your Elected Leaders?
Incoming House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples)  have now assumed leadership from outgoing House Speaker Chris Sprowls and outgoing Senate President Wilton Simpson. Some of Speaker Renner and President Passidomo’s shared goals include focusing on improving the environmental and transportation infrastructure for the state, including the formation of new House and Senate Committees to drive the development of strategic solutions for the future of Florida’s water supply, water quality, transportation, land conservation, and resiliency.

While all Floridians’ voices are important for influencing legislation during session, if your state representative or senator sits on key committees that hear environmental bills, your voice can be especially powerful for Florida’s wildlife and wildlands. Now in these early days of the legislative season, make sure you know who your representative and senator are and check their committee assignments. If your elected officials sit on any of the following committees, your voice is especially important this year:

Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government
Environment and Natural Resources
Select Committee on Resiliency
Regulated Industries

Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee
Infrastructure Strategies Committee
Agriculture, Conservation & Resiliency Subcommittee
Transportation & Modals Subcommittee
Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee
Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency & Recovery
State Affairs

The Florida Constitution directs the Legislature to redraw district boundaries at its Regular Session in the second year following each decennial census. The location of district lines determines who your representative is. Our state went through a major redistricting exercise, and we encourage you to look up your state senator and representative here.
A Barred Owl in a cypress tree.
Barred Owl. Photo: Donald Sawin
House and Senate Natural Resource Committees Start Off with Introductions, Mission Scope, and Agency Briefings
Interim Committee week started off with a meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee chaired by Jay Collins (R-Tampa). The committee outlined its priorities for this year with the goal of stabilizing, revitalizing, and growing agriculture in Florida, continuing to grow research and technology in partnership with UF/IFAS, and focusing on hurricane recovery. Members noted that since Hurricane Ian had affected our food crops as well as more than 60% of the state’s grazing land, a lot must be done to help the struggling industry in the State.

The Senate Select Committee on Resiliency, chaired by Senator Albritton (R-Wauchula), met on Wednesday, January 4, 2023, and was provided an overview of disaster recovery work to date in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state that were hit by Hurricanes Nicole and Ian last year. Division of Emergency Management Executive Director Kevin Guthrie, with a view to improving recovery efforts, outlined constraints in the current system that were hampering the recovery process.  Also on the agenda was a presentation by Wesley Brooks, the Chief Resiliency Officer, on the state’s resiliency programs.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) also had its first meeting this week. This committee has oversight of appropriations for a broad scope of programs and agencies including the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Florida Department of Management Services.

As noted earlier, Speaker Renner’s priority for this year is to improve the state’s environmental infrastructure. New to this session are three subcommittees that fall under the newly formed House Infrastructure Strategies Committee. The committee will be chaired by veteran House member Rep. Bobby Payne (R- Palatka) and will focus on developing sound policy to plan for Florida’s growth, including transportation while protecting our water, building flood resilience, prioritizing land acquisition, and infrastructure planning. The subcommittees include the Agriculture, Conservation & Resiliency Subcommittee, the Transportation & Modals Subcommittee, and the Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee.

All three committees met this week for the first time to introduce their members and to discuss their areas of focus. The Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Buchanan (R-Osprey) will focus on issues critical to Florida’s agriculture and citrus industries, conservation of natural resources, fish and wildlife issues, water quality and supply, and transportation services. The House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Stevenson (R-St. Johns), will focus on developing strategic solutions for the future of our water supply and water quality and lastly, the House Select Committee on Hurricane Resiliency and Recovery chaired by Rep. Michael Grant (R- Port Charlotte) will prioritize making Florida a more resilient state. The state is facing more than $50 billion in damages from Hurricane Ian; Hurricane Nicole deepened the impacts, causing more than $50 million in damage in Volusia County, alone. Speaker Renner created this committee to review hurricane recovery efforts across the state and to make Florida a safer place in the face of intensifying storms.
Cover of State of the Everglades report with a Roseate Spoonbill.
Magazine cover with a Roseate Spoonbill with it's bill tucked under its wing. Photo: Jean Hall
The Everglades are Changing - Are You Up to Date?
From storm updates to Lake Okeechobee news, outlook for Snail Kites and nesting of Roseate Spoonbills, we have everything you need to be an Everglades expert in our brand-new edition of the State of the Everglades. 

Hurricane Ian has proven to be one of the most devastating storms in Florida’s history. In the wake of the damage this storm wrought for communities and families on the Southwest coast, we look towards nature’s resilience to buffer impacts from future storms. Hurricane Ian brought into clear focus what is at stake for Floridians, and it reminded us that our natural wetlands — including nearly five million acres of the Everglades — are our best defenses from hurricanes and storm surge.

This is why the work of Audubon Florida’s Everglades team is so critical — and urgent. We are quickly approaching the finish line for the new Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule which will impact water deliveries throughout the Greater Everglades and will help us move water quickly during flood events. We are studying indicator species like the Roseate Spoonbill to give us insight into the impacts of sea level rise and habitat functionality. We are advocating for sound water policy in Southwest Florida and adaptive management in the Florida Keys.

And we need your voice on Everglades issues now more than ever.
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