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State Lawmakers Agree On $100 Million Conservation Funding Plan

St. Johns River Water Management District

Florida lawmakers have agreed on funding for the state’s conservation-land-buying program, Florida Forever. The plan is to spend more than 100-million-dollars on it next year.

But a stalled measure would’ve guaranteed recurring funding for years to come.

$77 million will go directly to state land-buying and management, $10 million will go to local governments to purchase their own conservation parcels, and almost $6 million will go to farm owners who agree to stop using parts of their productive land, called easements.

Audubon Florida Director Julie Wraithmell said this year’s budget is a massive win for the environment.

“We’re glad to see the money to this program being restored and there [are] lots of great projects that are already in the works,” she said. “So, we’re glad that there will be money available for the state to follow through on their commitments to them.”

Funding for land buying was zeroed out last year, as lawmakers instead funded environmental projects in other ways.

Senate budget chief Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) tried to make sure that didn’t happen again and sponsored a bill giving Florida Forever $100 million annually. It also stipulated most of the money had to be used for buying and managing land after environmentalists opposed spending Florida Forever money on salaries and administrative costs.

Bradley’s bill passed the full Senate but stalled in the House.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.