After a busy summer working on Florida Forever projects, endangered species protection roll-backs, and road-corridor task forces, Audubon Florida looks ahead to the start of legislative committee meetings this fall in Tallahassee. 
Audubon Florida
Audubon Advocate | Your Policy Update
Black Skimmer
Planning for New Turnpikes Begins
During the 2019 Legislative Session, Senate President Galvano’s top priority – a bill that would explore creating three new turnpikes in Florida - sailed through both the Florida House and the Senate. Audubon worked to amend the bills to ensure due consideration would be provided for conservation lands and limiting sprawl. The planning task forces have since been named, and Audubon’s Charles Lee and Dr. Paul Gray are among the environmental representatives.

Audubon Florida is committed to keeping you in the loop as the M-CORES task forces meet regularly.

M-CORES stands for Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance.” At the first task force meeting on August 27, DOT Secretary Kevin Thibault and Senator Galvano emphasized the goals of providing for environmental land acquisition as part of the M-CORES projects  and equally importantly, emphasized co-locating new turnpikes with existing highways as they instructed task force members.


Secretary Thibault encouraged task force members to consider using existing road corridors for new turnpike projects: “I challenge the task force, and I’ll challenge the group that’s working on these [projects], to keep an open mind to see what are the different options that are there,” Thibault said. “It’s not always building a brand new alignment.”

Senator Galvano added: “I challenge you to keep in mind the natural resources that this state has. When we design these corridors – or I should say, when you design these corridors, I ask that you consider concepts to combine right of way acquisition with other land acquisition to facilitate environmental, wildlife habitat, and water quality protection.”

While these roads are still a long way from approval, Audubon Florida and Audubon chapters must influence this process with a logical, science-based, and fact-based approach. That is our goal, and we hope you will join with us in this effort. As the task forces reach key decision points in the planning process, we will send out alerts to keep you engaged.

For further information, contact us at flconservation@audubon.org.
Swallow-tailed Kites
Looking Ahead to Fall Legislative Committees
After bills are introduced they travel through committees that approve, block, or modify them. These committee seats are critically important and many of our advocates have elected representatives in powerful positions on key committees.

Fall committee lists have been finalized. As we gear up for the 2020 Legislative Session, it’s important to know the committees that influence our priorities and if your legislators sit on them. Click here for the Florida House of Representatives list, and click here for the Florida Senate list. 
Fish Island.
Summer of Successes for Florida Forever
Florida Forever is the state's premier land conservation program, acquiring parks and preserves to provide recreational opportunities, habitat for imperiled wildlife, and other benefits like water recharge and carbon sequestration. This summer, Governor DeSantis and the Cabinet approved the 57-acre Fish Island property in Northeast Florida as well as 717 acres within the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone. As Florida's population continues to grow, protecting vulnerable resources like these is more important than ever.

Audubon remains engaged in the process by which acquisitions are selected, and then managed for ecological health. In the coming legislative session, funding for acquisitions is a top priority.

Read more here.
Florida Grasshopper Sparrow
Audubon Florida Defends Endangered Species
On August 16th, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that the public had three weeks to comment on proposed new standards to take 96 species off of the Threatened and Endangered Species lists.

Among the 96 species under consideration were Florida icons, including: the Everglade Snail Kite, Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, Indigo Snake, Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit, and Okeechobee Gourd.

The Endangered Species Act requires that each recovery plan incorporates “objective, measurable criteria which, when met, would result in a determination…that the species be removed from the list.”

Audubon staff Dr. Paul Gray and others reviewed the proposed standards in the very limited time provided.

Audubon has expressed grave concern that the standards associated with population size - the most important indicator of whether a species are indeed endangered - are not science-based measures of population size and trends, and therefore are not measurable. 

We will continue to fight for the Endangered Species Act and the wildlife and plants it protects from extinction.
Oiled Brown Pelican.
They Heard You! The U.S. House Passes Bills to Protect Coasts from Oil and Gas Spilling
Florida’s Gulf Coast would be left vulnerable to oil exploration in 2022 if the current moratorium on drilling were allowed to expire. Similarly, last year, the federal administration proposed an offshore drilling plan that would lead to an unprecedented expansion of oil and gas drilling off of the Atlantic coast, including Florida, putting hundreds of species of birds and numerous coastal communities in jeopardy.

Earlier this week we called on you to speak up for our coasts and encourage your representative to support two bills: HR 205, sponsored by Florida’s own Francis Rooney, and HR 1941, sponsored by South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham. 

You spoke and they listened. Both bills passed the house this week, but will have a harder fight when they reach the Senate.
Cover photo by RJ Wiley.
Have You Seen the New Naturalist?
From Ghost Orchids to Florida Panthers, algal blooms to restoration wetlands, the August issue of the Naturalist delves into our programs, successes, and concerns about birds and the places they depend on to thrive. Click here for the online edition. 
Roseate Spoonbill.
Stay Tuned!
Thank you for your efforts to protect Florida's wildlife and natural resources. Look for the next installment of Audubon Advocate in October for a committee update and look towards the 2020 legislative session.
Black Skimmer. Photo: Jean Hall; Swallow-tailed Kites. Photo: James Gray; Fish Island. Photo: Monarch Studio, Scott S. Smith; Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. Photo: Dr. Marianne Korosy; Ghost Orchid. Photo: RJ Wiley; Roseate Spoonbill. Photo: John Fox.
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(305) 371-6399 fl.audubon.org

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