Jul 1, 2021 - Politics

DeSantis signs rare Florida bipartisan environmental protection law

A Florida black bear pauses in front of a camera trap on the Hendrie Ranch in south central Florida. The property is a vital linkage between existing conserved lands. Image credit: Carlton Ward Jr./Florida Wild

"This is a miracle akin to the Devil showing up in church on Easter Sunday, apologizing to everyone for causing so much trouble, and dropping a $1,000 bill in the offering plate."

  • So wrote longtime Florida environmental reporter Craig Pittman upon learning that the Legislature had unanimously passed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law late Tuesday.

Why it matters: "It’s a new vision," Hilary Swain, executive director of the Archbold Biological Station, told Axios. "This is not just aspirational, but achievable, and that’s a remarkable thing."

The big picture: The act (read it yourself) aims to "to create incentives for conservation and sustainable development while sustaining and conserving the green infrastructure that is the foundation of Florida’s economy and quality of life."

What it means: The landmark legislation incentivizes the preservation of a wild green spine that stretches from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp, securing access to habitats for wide-ranging and roaming wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther.

  • That's some 18 million acres of greenbelt, including working ranch land and timberland, plus 1,323 named rivers and streams crisscrossing the state, and nearly 1,000 miles of the Florida Trail. (Maps!)
  • It also protects the headwaters of major watersheds like the Everglades and St. Johns; helps sustain working farms, lands and forests; and preserves land and water to protect coastal estuaries.
  • Lawmakers also agreed to put $300 million toward the Florida Forever land conservation program to protect the corridor, in addition to $100 million already budgeted that goes to the Florida Forever conservation program.

What they're saying: "One of the things I love so much about the corridor, that there’s this common interest of people who overlap," Jason Lauritsen, executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition, told Axios.

  • "Anglers, hunters, timber men, bird watchers, springs divers, campers and hikers, ranchers ... this big group that all recognizes that this is important."

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