Stop proposed nature-preserve giveaways
UPDATE 4/12/13: Thanks to all who took action to oppose these bills and protect our nature preserves, both of these bills are effectively dead this session.
Please join me in asking our legislators to stop 2 proposed laws that would gut our state & county land preservation programs, including Hillsborough County’s ELAPP, and give away our public conservation lands to private interests & corporations. I’m sending the letter below to all the legislators in Hillsborough County’s legislative delegation, hoping they’ll understand that their constituents won’t stand for the horrible impacts these laws would have on our popular ELAP conservation program.To:
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Stop 2 bills from devastating Hillsborough’s ELAPP environmental-land program
Dear legislators in Hillsborough County’s delegation,
The two bills below would have devastating impacts on Hillsborough County’s ELAP program — our Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program. The first bill (1) severely restricts the purchase of conservation lands by counties & cities as well as the state; the second bill (2) addresses state-owned land, which could impact some of the land that ELAPP co-owns/co-manages with SWFWMD.
ELAPP is hugely popular in this county — 79% of the voters approved the 2008 referendum to tax themselves up to $200 million to continue the program. We are counting on you to defend that mandate and protect our investment.
HB 901 (Rep. Stone) / SB 584 (Sen. Hays) – Prohibits the purchase of public conservation lands by any governmental entity — state, county, or city — unless an equal amount of public property is returned to private ownership, effectively killing the acquisition of conservation land in Florida. (In fact, since much of our public lands have been purchased with bonds requiring the land to remain in conservation, the bill is effectively a prohibition against acquiring ANY new public conservation lands).
The severe restrictions on ELAPP in this bill’s language would make it impossible for ELAPP to continue acquiring, protecting & restoring environmentally sensitive land:
A county may purchase land for conservation purposes only if:
(1) An accurate inventory, not more than 1 year old, of government-owned property is made public;
(2) Sufficient funds are approved in the county’s annual budget for the maintenance of existing properties;
(3) An analysis by the county describing the annual cost of maintenance of the proposed land purchase is completed; and
(4) An equal amount of public property not being held in conservation is returned or sold at fair market value to the private sector.
HB 33 (Rep. Smith) / SB 466 (Sen. Altman) – Allows individual and corporate private land owners to exchange state owned land for conservation easements over their private land holdings. This would remove the state lands from public management, placing them back into the hands of private interests for farming, grazing, timber and other private uses. Since the alteration of the original state lands for these new agricultural uses would be irreversible, and since there is no requirement in the bills for the conservation easements to be permanent, this does not seem fair to Florida’s taxpayers. This bill proposes to give state lands away permanently in return for a temporary easement. It does an end-run around statutes that ensure Florida gets equal or better value in any land exchange. This bill is opposed by the United Water Fowlers of Florida, Audubon Florida, and other conservation groups.
The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC), founded by Bob Graham & Nathaniel Reed, opposes both bills.
Please do all you can to stop these two bills.