In Week 4 of the 2020 Legislative Session, our Audubon members helped defeat an amendment that would have endangered community trees. Thanks to you, the amendment was withdrawn! We continue to watch progress on water and appropriations bills, while celebrating great news for land acquisition in Florida. Next week will bring stakeholders from across the state to advocate for Everglades and water.
Audubon Florida
Audubon Advocate | Your Policy Update
Common Gallinule. Photo: Christine Sandberg/Great Backyard Bird Count.
Common Gallinule. Photo: Christine Sandberg/Great Backyard Bird Count.
Great News for Protecting Florida's Special Places
Earlier this week, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet approved two Florida Forever land acquisitions and agreed to acquire a conservation easement that will protect special places in Manatee, Sarasota, and Columbia counties. Gulf Restoration funding through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation made possible the acquisition of a key 20,000-acre Panhandle parcel around Lake Wimico.

According to DEP Secretary Valenstein, “The Orange Hammock acquisition protects 5,777 acres of natural, pristine Florida habitat and is the largest undeveloped property left in Sarasota County.” This parcel is home to the increasingly rare dry prairie habitat. In addition, the acquisition will enhance water resources in the area by restricting development, preserving the natural systems, promoting water retention and aquifer recharge, and providing recreation opportunities to area residents.

The second approved acquisition is a 17-acre addition to River Rise Preserve State Park in Columbia County. The parcel contains a unique portion of the Sante Fe River, which emerges from underground as Columbia Spring. The State’s acquisition of this land will protect the prominent hydrological features of the Santa Fe River system.

The Myakka Ranchlands conservation easement will protect 559 acres adjacent to Flatford Swamp in Manatee County. This is an important aquifer recharge area and surface water feature for the headwaters of the Myakka River corridor.

Finally, wetland habitat acquisition along Lake Wimico made possible with Gulf Restoration dollars will protect a 21,000-acre area of critical conservation significance in the central Panhandle. This long sought-after acquisition will not only protect the lake but will also help preserve the water quality of the Apalachicola River, Apalachicola Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Congrats to all the partners who made these important wins possible!
Sanderlings. Photo: Andrew Berrier/Audubon Photography Awards.
Sanderlings. Photo: Andrew Berrier/Audubon Photography Awards.
Climate Adaptation Bill Moves at a Steady Pace
Climate change and sea level rise will not only pose environmental challenges to Florida, but also economic ones. Audubon Florida continues to follow and support HB 0579, Public Financing of Construction Projects, by Representative Aloupis (R-Miami) and SB 0178 by Senator Rodriguez (D-Miami). HB 0579 would require a Sea Level Impact Projection (SLIP) study be conducted for any state financed construction in coastal areas. On Tuesday, February 4, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee unanimously advanced HB 0579, requiring the state to start planning for sea level rise when using public funds for construction. Preparing for climate change isn’t just important for our environment, it is critical to Florida’s prosperity.
Growth Management
HB 0519, Private Property Rights, by Representative Grant (R-Tampa), which extends development rights to landowners using the Bert Harris Act clause, had a tough passage through the Judicial committee on Thursday.

An amendment that would gut cities' and counties' abilities to protect trees and habitat in local communities was withdrawn just before the meeting under pressure from advocates like you. This language would have allowed developers to clear cut vacant lots without any limitations as long as an arborist claimed the trees were dangerous.

Urban tree cover is critical habitat for wildlife, protects water and air quality, and helps protect cities from heat island effects. We asked, and you stepped up.

Thank you!
Double-crested Cormorants. Photo: Devin Grady/Audubon Photography Awards/
Double-crested Cormorants. Photo: Devin Grady/Audubon Photography Awards/
Following on the heels of its successful passage last week in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government, Senator Mayfield (R-Vero) filed another amendment this week to her Clean Waterways Bill SB 0712.

Significant additions to the bill included increased specificity for requirements directing DEP to update stormwater rules for reducing non-point source pollution. Fertilizer records will be collected every two years from farmers enrolled in the Florida Department of Agriculture’s (FDACS) Best Management Practices (BMP) program in conjunction with FDACS’ BMP verification visits. Two watersheds (Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon) were prioritized for initial data collection and verification. All watersheds will enjoy this data collection and verification in the first two years. It is important to note that for the first time ever, data collected will be shared with DEP and the BG Algae Task Force to evaluate and improve the BMP program—a critical need in most watersheds. Neither SB 712 nor its House companion HB 1343 were heard in committees this week.

HB 1363 by Representative Overdorf (R-Palm City) passed the House Governmental Oversight Committee on Monday. There is some overlap with the provisions in this bill and the two big water bills moving through the legislature. HB 1363 focuses on improving FDACS’ BMP Program, while adding both agricultural and urban regional projects within Basin Management Action Plans.

Representative Fine’s (R-Palm Bay) HB 1091 gained an amendment and unanimously passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. This bill and its Senate companion SB 1450 by Senator Gruters (R- Sarasota) increases various statutory penalties for violations of environmental laws. For violations that currently impose a penalty for each day during which a violation occurs, the bill specifies that each day the violation occurs or is not remediated constitutes a separate offense. Tuesday’s amendment also revised provisions related to determining the time period during which a violation is subject to separate penalties for certain criminal violations.
Live oak tree.
Live oak tree.
SB 1878, filed by Senator Bradley (R-Fleming Island), 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, and was amended on Monday in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources to clarify that $64 million was allocated for the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir.

The remaining $236 million annually is for Everglades projects that implement the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

The bill also set aside $50 million for springs, and realigned allocations in order to set aside $25 million for the critical watersheds of the St. Johns, Suwannee, and Apalachicola rivers in North Florida.

Lastly, the bill allocates $10 million for Florida’s Resilient Coastline Initiative, $50 million to the SFWMD for aquifer storage wells, and $4 million to Red Tide research. SB 1878 as amended unanimously passed the Senate committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Currently there is no house companion bill.
Wood Storks. Photo: Howard Izenwasser / Great Backyard Bird Count.
Wood Storks. Photo: Howard Izenwasser / Great Backyard Bird Count.
Upcoming M-CORES Meetings
Task Force Meeting #4 - Suncoast Connector

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 at 10 AM – 4 PM

Public · Hosted by M-CORES Suncoast Connector

Madison Church of God Life Center
771 NE Colin Kelly Hwy
Madison, FL

Task Force Meeting #4 - Northern Turnpike Connector

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 10 AM – 4 PM

Public · Hosted by M-CORES Northern Turnpike Connector

17851 NW 90th Ave
Fanning Springs, FL

Click here to learn more.
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