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via FLORIDA WILDLIFE CORRIDOR

FL - Florida Forever Funding Could Be Cut In Half

Some of the state's main environmental programs are on the chopping block, including Florida Forever, a key fund to acquire conservation land.

Governor Ron DeSantis' proposed budget includes $50 million for the preservation program - half of what it received last year.

Lindsay Cross is with the advocacy group Florida Conservation Voters.

"Investing in our conservation is a way to kind to balance the impacts we see in the environment from new development and new homes and businesses being created," she said.

Florida Forever is a trust fund paid for by real estate taxes. Cross says housing sales have been strong, so the program shouldn't be affected.

"Despite an overall downturn in the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we've actually seen an increase in home sales and home values - enough that the land acquisition trust fund has more money in it than it did last year," she said.

Voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment directing at least one-third of those taxes to go to land and water conservation. Cross said that has been stymied by lawmakers, and used for management of existing lands.

"Our Legislature interpreted that (amendment) too broadly," she said. "And started raiding the land acquisition trust fund to offset expenses that used to be paid for through general revenue. And those are things like executive salaries and paying for the entire IT department.

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