The Florida Legislative Session 2013 is in full swing, and environmental groups are worried about a number of bills before lawmakers. Organizations like Audubon of Florida are focused on proposed measures that would impact environmental funding, wildlife protection, water quality and land use and conservation.
One of the top priorities for Audubon of Florida and similar watchdogs is the security of Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget, which earmarked $75 million for land conservation projects spearheaded by the Florida Forever Coalition.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida (a member organization of Florida Forever), said as the budget is debated by Florida legislators, his organization will be "concerned with maintaining funding in the budget."
Draper and company also are tracking more than two dozen House and Senate bills that would have direct or indirect impact on the environment. Of chief concern are bills that would involve the sell-off of state lands, those that "make it easier to develop on wetlands," or pollute waterways, Draper said.
Audubon of Florida has officially opposed bills, which include:
- HB 584 Hays/HB 901 Stone - Purchase of Conservation Lands - This bill would "limit the state, county, or municipality from purchasing state conservation lands without meeting certain criteria first," according to the bill's language.
- HB 33 Smith/SB 466 Altman - Conservation Easements - Proponents say the bill will encourage economic development while protecting wildlife. Audubon says this bill "allows individuals and corporations to exchange state-owned land for conservation easements over privately held land and encourages certain operations on these lands." Read the bill in its entirety here.
- HB 431 Broxson - Development of Oil and Gas Resources - This bill would allow for oil and gas drilling on certain state lands. Read the bill in its entirety here.
Bills on the group's "monitoring" list include those that; reduce the number of members on the Southwest Florida Water Management District Board, handle permits for urban redevelopment, oversee certain agricultural lands, legislate wastewater discharge, and other issues. The group supports bills that grant bonds for Everglades restoration, allow for local ordinances banning non-recyclable plastic bags, and support the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, among others.
Click here for the complete list of bills -- subject to change -- that Audubon of Florida has highlighted to watch in Session 2013. The list includes the Audubon of Florida stance on most of the bills and also includes links to the actual bills themselves. Want to weigh in on any of these issues? Use the Florida Senate's "find your legislator" search to contact your representative.
Read more about Scott's proposed $74.2 billion budget, which also includes $60 million for Everglades restoration, here.
In the interest of disclosure, the author has made nominal monetary donations to the National Audubon Society within the last year to support birding programs.