We work to promote land conservation through effective education and advocacy. 

 
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Advocating for Land Conservation

Action must be taken to restore funding to Florida’s conservation programs before it’s too late. The Conservation Trust for Florida promotes land conservation through effective education and advocacy includes meeting with our legislators to share news about our projects and our vision for Florida’s conservation future. It also includes reaching out to our members and the broader conservation community to harness the groundswell of support for our work.

Why is our work urgently needed?

Protecting Florida’s natural and agricultural landscapes has never been more important than it is today. To us, there are three most pressing challenges to conservation – a growing population, loss of habitat, and reduced funding for conservation.

Rapid Human Population Growth

Florida is the third most populous state in the nation. Its population is growing by nearly 1,000 newcomers each day and will exceed 30 million residents by the year 2070[1]. With this rapid growth comes a greater demand for water and more development of rural and natural lands for urban uses. This we know for sure: more people are coming, and they will need food, water, and housing. How we manage our natural resources over the next 10 to 20 years – what we save and what we pave – will undoubtedly determine Florida’s Conservation Future. Our vision accommodates future population growth while striving to protect Florida’s rich, natural heritage.

Habitat Fragmentation and Species Isolation

As Florida’s population booms, new roads, housing developments, and shopping centers fragment natural ecosystems. Poorly planned expansion of cities cuts off natural movement corridors used by wildlife. The importance of maintaining landscape connectivity to ensure the survival of wide-ranging wildlife species, such as black bears, has been documented for nearly 30 years[2]. Yet, there is still no coordinated, statewide effort to protect natural corridors that provide wildlife with access to safe passageways between conservation areas.

Without conservation corridors, iconic species like the Florida black bear and the Florida panther are at risk of becoming isolated in small islands of protected lands. Corridors allow individual animals from different populations to successfully breed with each other and ensure genetic diversity. They also allow animals to move to different habitats to find food and water as part of their natural migration patterns. With the support of our members and partners, we are leading the charge to protect a statewide network of natural corridors.

Reduced State-Level Funding for Land Conservation

Did you know that Florida used to be a leader in land conservation? Its “Florida Forever” program was once the nation’s largest land-buying program and was funded at about $300 million a year for 19 years in a row. But, in 2009, state legislators slashed funding to the program, and it has languished ever since.

In 2014, over 75% of Florida voters approved the Florida Water and Land Acquisition Amendment to restore funding for land conservation. However, despite public demand, state legislators have yet to provide adequate funding for critical land protection programs including Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP).

The Florida Forever program, run by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, focuses on acquiring land for conservation and recreation. The RFLPP was established to protect key agricultural lands through the acquisition of conservation easements. The RFLPP is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Florida Forest Service, and it “recognizes that a thriving rural economy with a strong agricultural base and viable rural communities is essential to Florida’s future.” [3]

As of March, there were 118 total land acquisition projects on the Florida Forever priority list. Added together, those projects total nearly 2.2 million acres. According to the Trust for Public Land, it would cost at least $5 billion to acquire all of the land on the list, and that’s considered a conservative estimate.

The Conservation Trust for Florida currently has eight proposed land protection projects, totaling 144,437 acres, on the Florida Forever priority list. If funding to the program is restored, we can move forward on the protection of our highly-ranked Florida Forever projects. Until then, these critical projects remain on hold and are at risk of being sold for development.

Over the last decade, we have successfully secured funding for a number of agricultural land protection projects via the RFLPP on behalf of ranchers and families with working farms. We currently have 21 active projects on the RFLPP list that total 69,883 acres. As with the Florida Forever program, adequate funding of the RFLPP is needed to complete these projects.  

 

 

 

[1] 1000 Friends of Florida and the University of Florida, Florida 2070 Study

[2] Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, Wildlife 2060: What’s at stake for Florida?

[3] www.freshfromflorida.com/rflpp