Audubon Florida
The Advocate

We Are Back with the First Advocate Newsletter of Florida’s Legislative Session of 2022-23!


Interim Legislative Committee Week meetings began this week in the run up to the January 2022 Legislative Session. You can count on Audubon to keep you up to speed each committee week and each week of Session. We will alert you when your voice can make a real difference!
 
Wilson's Plover. Photo: Gail DuBois / Audubon Photography Awards.
Legislative Committees and Leadership
Committee lists were finalized in September in anticipation of the start of interim committee weeks for Session 2022-23. As we gear up for the 2022 Legislative Session, it is 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:
https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Committees/committees.aspx

Click here for the Florida Senate Committee list:
https://www.flsenate.gov/committees
Wilson's Plover. Photo: Gail DuBois / Audubon Photography Awards.
Tricolored Heron. Photo: William Dix/Audubon Photography Awards.
Committee Meetings Begin with a Budget Bang
Committee Meetings hosted this week brought lawmakers up to speed on happenings since they left Tallahassee in April 2021, as well key agency legislative budget requests. 

We are reporting on a few important happenings in this issue of the Advocate:

-  Rep. Josie Tomkow, (Polk City-R) Chairs the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee; they met on Tuesday September 21, 2021 to introduce new members as well as to get updates from agency leadership. 

- On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee, chaired by Sen. Harrell (Stuart-R) heard presentations by the Florida Department of Transportation on the development of their Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Master Plan and from Florida Power & Light Company on their Electric Vehicle Charging Initiatives. As electric cars become more prevalent on our roads and highways, adding more charging stations is essential to their success. The addition of these stations may encourage increased ridership and usage of electric vehicles, improving air quality in the state. The plan has been funded in part by the 2018 multi-state Volkswagen Settlement.

- The Senate Agriculture Committee, Chaired by Sen. Darryl Rouson (St. Petersburg-D) met on Thursday, September 23, 2021 to be apprised of an important issue facing the state: Racial inequality in Florida Agriculture. Dania Davey, a director with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund, briefed the committee about the decline of Black farmers in Florida. Ms. Davey stated that Black farmers are losing nearly 4,000 acres each year while receiving less than half the government payments that non-Black farmers receive. Black farmers disproportionally are victims of discriminatory lending practices and lack adequate access to capital. Chair Rouson is committed to working to improve conditions for Black farmers in the state with fair and equitable access to resources for their continued success.

- The Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Florida Depart of Agricultural Services provided an overview of their legislative budget requests for FY22. 

Highlights are provided below:
budget table
We are gratified to see a robust environmental  budget request to help them carry out their charge.  Everglades restoration is a priority for both the state and the federal government, and the state of Florida is leading the way. 

Additionally, Governor DeSantis is more than three-quarters of the way towards meeting his commitment to set aside $2.5 billion for Water and Everglades. This budget request aligns with this ongoing commitment. 

Importantly, FDACS’ funding request will support the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce run-off and protect water quality.  To carry out the requirements in the Clean Waterways Act, the agency needs resources to inspect and enforce as necessary. 

 
Tricolored Heron. Photo: William Dix/Audubon Photography Awards.
Common Yellowthroat. Photo: Paul Gardner/Audubon Photography Awards.
Pop Quiz: You May Be a Legislative Super Influencer
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 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:

SENATE
Appropriations
Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government
Agriculture
Environment and Natural Resources
Transportation
Regulated Industries

HOUSE
Appropriations
Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee
Commerce
State Affairs
Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee

Look up your state senator and representative here.
Common Yellowthroat. Photo: Paul Gardner/Audubon Photography Awards.
Brown-headed Nuthatch. Photo: Keith Burroughs/Audubon Photography Awards.
Nearly 20,000 Acres Conserved Under Florida Forever Program
Seven parcels have now been protected through purchase and conservation easements.

“This impressive slate of projects spans the state from Pensacola to Naples, protecting habitat and wildlife, as well as our water and climate,” said Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director, Audubon Florida.

“Audubon is especially excited to celebrate several projects in the Northern Everglades; land conservation north of Lake Okeechobee helps protect the water that flows into the big lake, its estuaries, and eventually Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. In this way, local projects add up to far-reaching benefits for millions of Floridians.”

Read the Governor’s press release here.
Brown-headed Nuthatch. Photo: Keith Burroughs/Audubon Photography Awards.
cover of the Naturalist showing a series of banded birds.
Fall Edition of the Naturalist is Here!
It’s no secret that here at Audubon, we love birds. They are beautiful, complex creatures, but we are drawn most to their flight. This very ability makes them both difficult to study and harder to protect, as they link Florida with northern breeding territory, southern wintering grounds, and beyond.

In this issue, we describe our multi-faceted approach to conservation, from bird bands and trackers (pg. 5-6) to meaningful policy change (pg. 13), innovative rehabilitation and full-scale restoration (pg. 10-11), and inspiring our ever-ready cadre of volunteers (pg. 3, 7, 14-15) for boots on the ground protection and monitoring. Each fledged bird making its way to wintering habitat this fall is a beacon of hope and proof that our methods work. Keep flying with our flock by joining the 2021 Audubon Florida Assembly (pg. 4), subscribing to our newsletter, or volunteering with us.

Click here to read the full Naturalist magazine!
Swallow-tailed Kites. Photo: Layton Parham/Audubon Photography Awards.
Audubon Florida Climate and Energy News Roundup
This week we share news about solar panel innovation, making electric vehicles accessible to all drivers, food emissions, how climate change alters lives, and more!

Click here to read.
Swallow-tailed Kites. Photo: Layton Parham/Audubon Photography Awards.
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