The 2020 Legislative Session is underway! Audubon looks forward to supporting legislative efforts that protect water quality, enhance resilience, and promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. As important issues come up, we’ll be looking to you for help. Read on for details, and thanks as always for lending your voice in support of Florida and our birds!
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The 2020 Legislative Session is underway! Audubon looks forward to supporting legislative efforts that protect water quality, enhance resilience, and promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. As important issues come up, we’ll be looking to you for help. Read on for details, and thanks as always for lending your voice in support of Florida and our birds!
Audubon Florida
Audubon Advocate | Your Policy Update
Governor DeSantis at the podium.
Governor DeSantis makes announcement of land acquisition near Ft. Lauderdale.
State Announces Everglades Acquisition to Head Off Drilling Threat
This week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the largest wetland acquisition in a decade. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will be purchasing 20,000 acres of wetlands from Kanter Real Estate, LLC. The land in question is located in Broward County in the sensitive Water Conservation Area 3 within the Everglades Protection Area, and it was slated for oil and gas drilling.

The Governor’s announcement was met with enthusiasm and it marks a step in the right direction by his administration in the protection of America’s Everglades.

“Florida is making a hefty investment in the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world to ensure that clean water is available to rehydrate America’s Everglades,” said Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell. “Drilling for oil in the Water Conservation Area is incompatible with our commitment to restore this fragile ecosystem. This land is part of our water supply. We applaud Governor DeSantis in his resolve to acquire this land and place it under protection in perpetuity.”

Read more here.
A Roseate Spoonbill feeding in mangroves.
35th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference Calls for All Hands On Deck
This year’s Annual Everglades Coalition Conference was held at Captiva Island and attracted more than 360 stakeholders, decision-makers, scientists, and agency staff involved in the largest ecosystem restoration project in the world. Audubon Florida serves on the Board of Directors of the Coalition and was a proud sponsor of this year’s conference.

The theme “All Hands on Deck” highlights the need for widespread support to accelerate restoration and address Florida’s water crisis. Audubon’s Everglades Policy team rolled up its sleeves and dove deep into this year’s program, moderating a plenary with restoration leaders about sending more freshwater south, sharing Lake Okeechobee expertise with top restoration leaders, bringing in new media experts to showcase how these tools could be used to attract new voices into the conservation world, curating a breakout with small businesses supporting restoration efforts, and creating a space for newcomers to get acquainted with the acronym soup of Everglades restoration, among other things.

In a first-of-its-kind show of support, the entire nine-member South Florida Water Management District Governing Board and the Executive Team participated throughout the conference in full force. Looking for innovative ways to widen the tent, this year’s conference offered an open breakfast session so the public could meet and interact with the new Governing Board members, as well as an Everglades 101 Q&A with seasoned experts.
Birds in the Everglades. Photo by Mac Stone.
Birds in the Everglades. Photo by Mac Stone.
Join Everglades Action Day February 10 & 11!
Every year, Audubon collaborates with the Everglades Coalition to advocate for America’s Everglades at the State Capitol during the legislative session. Join your fellow advocates from across the state to meet with legislators and discuss why a healthy Everglades ecosystem is critical to our clean water supply, and how it supports a strong economy.

Your voice on Everglades Action Day ensures that the beloved ecosystem remains a top priority for elected officials! New to advocacy? No problem. Training and materials will be provided. Register now to save your spot. 

The Everglades Coalition will sponsor group transportation to make it easy for everyone to get to Tallahassee (there will be buses heading up both coasts). A limited number of scholarships is available to cover lodging for students and other individuals. Don’t miss it! Make a difference for the River of Grass!
Black skimmers on the beach
Black Skimmers at Clam Pass. Photo by Jean Hall.
Clam Pass Parking Garage Proposal Denied
Congratulations to Audubon staff and volunteers who made the case to the Collier Board of County Commissioners not to build a parking garage at Clam Pass Park in northern Collier County. Audubon science informed the case and Audubon policy staff worked tirelessly with county staff to achieve this success for birds and their habitats. While County officials are still considering other options for enhancing park amenities, they made it clear that a parking garage at this beach was not going to fly.
fireworks litter
Fireworks litter left behind on a Florida beach.
Bill to Expand Access to Personal Fireworks Amended
SB 140, sponsored by Senator Travis Hutson (R-Jacksonville) allows the legal purchase and use of personal explosive fireworks on designated holidays such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.

Audubon Florida has worked to limit the bill’s impact on vulnerable nesting bird species, sensitive conservation land, and fragile habitats. Audubon and other groups worked to narrow the scope of this bill, ensuring that it did not preempt existing local government fireworks controls. Audubon also expressed concerns that the use of fireworks on Memorial Day, which is the peak of the dry season, poses an incredible risk of fire to conservation lands and timber stands.

On Wednesday, January 15, our voices were heard and the Senate Rules Committee voted on an amendment introduced by Senator Hutson to remove Memorial Day from the list of designated holidays.
Audubon Florida's NE Policy Associate Chris Farrell.
Flagler County Wetlands Restoration Update
The Flagler County Wetland Restoration Project was completed in October by the St. Johns River Water Management District. Audubon supported this project at public meetings and before the SJRWMD Governing Board, showcasing the successes of previous ditch restoration projects. Shorebirds, marshbirds, and many other coastal species are already enjoying the benefits.

Check out this new video, produced by the SJRWMD, featuring comments from Audubon staff.
Solar panels.
Misleading Energy Deregulation Ballot Proposal Tossed Out by Supreme Court
A ballot initiative sponsored by Citizens for Energy Choices will not make it on the November 2020 ballot. The Supreme Court issued a memo last week concluding that the electricity deregulation ballot initiative should not be placed on the ballot because it misleads voters to believe the initiative grants a right to sell electricity, when in fact it does no such thing. Instead, the initiative would have resulted in wholesale deregulation of the state’s energy market and delayed plans to build out commercial-scale solar projects in the state. This is a win for accelerating Florida’s transition to renewable energy!
An electric vehicle being charged.
Resilience and Climate Change Issues to Watch
Florida legislators are pushing bills to increase renewable energy usage, and are turning their attention to helping the state meet the challenges of sea-level rise. There are several bills introduced this session that will require increasing elective vehicle infrastructure and charging stations across the state, and many more bills that require the expansion and availability of renewable energy.

Senator Tom Lee’s (R-Brandon) proposal creates the position of Chief Resiliency Officer and a task force to make recommendations to address sea-level rise. Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez’s (D-Miami) bill will require a sea-level rise study to be conducted on any publicly-funded buildings in coastal areas.

We will focus on some of these bills in greater detail in the next edition of the Advocate.
Point Washington.
Focus on Florida Forever
Florida Forever remains a crucial mechanism for protecting conservation lands across the state. Senator Stewart’s (R-Orlando) bill, SB 332, sets aside $100 million in recurring funds to the Florida Forever Trust Fund. In addition, Senator Montford’s (D-Tallahassee) bill, SB 722, sets aside $50 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund each year from 2020 through 2027 for conservation and management activities including land acquisition. Funding for this important program, as well as for Rural and Family Lands, is a critical tool in managing healthy habitats and waterways.
Limpkin, juvenile Little Blue Herons, and alligator. Photo by Erica Simons.
The Governor's Agenda
In September 2019, as part of his bold agenda, Governor DeSantis announced his intention to raise the state's $10,000 fine for spilling raw sewage into waterways by 50 percent to hold local governments and utilities accountable for their actions. In addition, each day that the spill continued would be considered a separate offense.

The Governor is about to meet part of that goal. SB 1450 and HB 1091, filed this week by State Senator Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), respectively, will increase fines on local governments for sewage spills and other pollution discharges into Florida waterways.

Additionally, SB 1878, filed by Senator Bradley (R-Flemming), sets aside $625 million each year to protect the Everglades, improve water quality, and prevent toxic algae blooms. The bill includes $300 million for the Everglades, $50 million for springs, and $100 million for Florida Forever, with the remaining allocations mostly consistent with the Governor’s current budget request.

These bills complement SB 712 that unanimously passed the Community Affairs Committee on December 9, 2019. Senator Debbie Mayfield’s (R-Vero Beach) Water Quality Improvements bill houses the most comprehensive water legislation Florida has seen in years and addresses the Governor’s recommendations for clean water. It includes recommendations for septic tanks, wastewater facilities, stormwater management, a maintenance and inspection program for utilities, as well as an inspection and reporting program for agriculture. HB1343, Water Quality Improvements was filed by Representative Payne (R-Palatka) as a companion to SB 712. The bills, while similar, are not identical. HB 1343 requires legislative ratification of any biosolids management rules that are adopted by the Department of Environmental Protection.

With these bills moving through the legislature, there is hope for Florida’s water.
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