Petition update

Bad Bill (SB 1290/HB 1075) still Threatens Our State Parks -- Your Help is Needed!

Jono Miller
Sarasota, FL

Feb 29, 2016 — Two bills affecting state parks have been improved with Some good amendments but our parks are STILL IN DANGER.

Two major problems remain with the bill, so we must ask again for your help. Call or write to your legislators.

A link has been provided to help identify your Florida State Representative and Senator.

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Dear Senator/Representative,

I am writing in regard to SB 1290/HB 1075, the State Lands Bill. Despite recent improvements, this bill remains a threat to Florida’s conservation lands that provide for our extraordinary biological diversity, water resources, fish and wildlife, and award winning state parks. Please amend SB 1290/HB 1075 to address the important concerns listed below. If these issues are not addressed, I respectfully ask that you vote “no” on the bill.

1) The Acquisition and Restoration Council, not the Board of Trustees, is the qualified entity that should be responsible for determining if lands exchanged under the provisions of Section 8 would result in a net conservation benefit.

2) State parks and preserves should not be turned over to private ownership under the provisions of Section 8.

3) With regard to Sections 16, 17, 21, and 22, state lands need to be managed for the purpose for which they were acquired. If the purpose for which they were acquired is determined to be unknown or impractical, then the Acquisition and Restoration Council should recommend a new purpose for the lands.

Please amend or oppose SB 1290/HB 1075 to protect Florida’s conservation lands.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
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First problem: The bill deletes language from current law which requires that state lands be managed for the purposes for which they were acquired. This means, for example, that if a parcel of land was purchased for a state park, it must be used as a state park and not for some other purpose. The new language in the bill proposes that state lands are to be managed in a manner “compatible” with conservation, recreation, or both. This provision could allow a state park to be managed for various other uses, such as timbering, cattle grazing, golf courses, RV Parks, etc. Proposals to place incompatible activities in state parks have been offered several times in the past few years, and fortunately, defeated by public opposition. This bill would legalize those proposals. State lands should be managed for the purposes for which they were acquired. If doing so is impractical, any proposal to use state land for other purposes should be recommended by the “Acquisition and Restoration Council” (ARC) to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund (Trustees = the Governor and Cabinet) for final approval. ARC members are qualified and specifically selected to evaluate and determine ecological values of conservation lands. The ARC process has served the Florida Forever program and the State well for many years.

Second problem: The bill allows the State to exchange state owned land, including state park land, for contiguous privately owned land, providing the state holds a conservation easement over both parcels. Such an exchange raises numerous questions as to what uses might be allowed on these lands and who controls the land. The bill would require the Trustees to make a determination that the exchange would result in a net positive conservation benefit before approval. Here again, the ARC should review any such proposal and make recommendations to the Trustees before a decision is made. Further, state parks and preserves should not be considered for such exchanges.

SB 1290 is currently in the Senate Appropriations Committee but could be withdrawn from committee and sent straight to the Senate Floor. The House Bill is ready for a Floor vote. It is important that the remaining problems are fixed in SB 1290 and HB 1075 before a floor vote in either chamber. Please call or write your Senator and Representative, and ask them to amend SB 1290/HB 1075 to resolve these two problems or vote against the bill. Find your Senator and Representative here by entering your address. To use our template, click here or see attached.

SB 1290 and HB 1075, even having been amended, remains a threat to Florida’s conservation lands that provide for our extraordinary biological diversity, water resources, fish and wildlife, and award winning state parks. Please call or write your Senator and your Representative and ask them to amend SB 1290/HB 1075 to resolve these two problems or vote against the bill.

Thank you for your continued advocacy for Florida’s environment.