Home Nature preserves Florida’s Wildlife Corridor is worth celebrating

Florida’s Wildlife Corridor is worth celebrating

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This year’s session of the Florida legislature has been terrible in many ways. Governor Ron DeSantis made matters worse by signing cultural warfare measures while rejecting some quality laws that were successful in passing.

At the end of last month, DeSantis vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have erased the criminal records of minors had they gone through diversion programs. He also vetoed unanimously passed legislation that would have established a stronger civic education for students.

But the governor has signed yet another unanimously approved bill that should benefit Floridians for generations to come. The measure officially establishes the Florida Wildlife Corridor, which connects parks, reserves and other undeveloped land to allow passage of wildlife and protect natural resources as the state’s growth engulfs so much greenery.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor campaign aims to preserve undeveloped land in a series of regional trails that can be corridors for wildlife to find habitat and travel safely.

The wildlife corridor, as envisioned, would total 18 million acres from Panhandle to the Keys, of which about 10 million acres are already protected. The newly signed law requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to encourage and promote ways to connect the remaining lands through state acquisitions, conservation easements, and public-private partnerships.

Creating a statewide connected land corridor prevents endangered animals such as the Florida panther from being cut off from each other and helps maintain their genetic diversity. People also benefit from the fact that natural lands prevent further decline of groundwater and other natural resources, as well as more recreational opportunities on state-owned lands.

State lawmakers have also committed $ 300 million in federal bailout funding for the Florida Forever Land Conservation Program specifically for the Wildlife Corridor. Another general funding of $ 100 million from Florida Forever was also included in the state budget approved in the last session.

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Conservationists are celebrating Florida for being the first state to map and actually invest in statewide wildlife corridors.

“Florida is ahead of the rest of the country,” Tom Hoctor, director of the Center for Landscape Conservation Planning at the University of Florida, told The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins.

But don’t get too carried away by praising the Republican-controlled legislature for supporting land conservation. After all, nearly 75% of Florida voters approved Amendment 1 in 2014 to force Parliament to spend roughly $ 300 million a year on Florida Forever – which lawmakers ignored each subsequent year until the federal coronavirus aid provides additional funding.

As Craig Pittman reported for the Florida Phoenix, nearly 80% of the land remaining to be acquired in the Wildlife Corridor is already on Florida Forever’s planned purchase list.

“In other words, if the legislature had pumped money into the Florida Forever program the way voters wanted, much of the land in the Florida Wildlife Corridor would likely have been saved from development by now,” Pittman wrote.

It remains to be seen whether the legislature will continue to spend money on the corridor once federal funding is exhausted. For now, longtime supporters of the corridor, such as nature photographer Carlton Ward Jr., are celebrating the new law as an important step in that direction.

“It gives me a lot of hope for the future of land conservation in Florida,” Ward told National Geographic.

– Nathan Crabbe is the Sun’s opinion and engagement writer. Follow him on twitter.com/nathancrabbe and facebook.com/nathancrabbe.

Opinion editor Sun Nathan Crabbe

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