Governor Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved a list of conservation projects proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) using the $8.4 million that was budgeted by the Legislature last session. While this is far less than the $300 million spent annually prior to the economic recession, it does indicate that this administration hasn’t abandoned environmental conservation altogether.
Given the current pace of economic recovery, the state appears to be focusing on lower-cost projects that protect water quality, provide buffers near military bases, or those that are already near completion. The program this year contemplates the purchase of lands including a conservation easement on Adams Ranch in Osceola County, property around the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway in Lake County, the Camp Blanding-Raiford Greenway site including portions of Nassau, Clay, Bradford and Union counties, and property surrounding some of the state's "first magnitude" springs.
DEP has proposed an allocation of $50 million into the program next year, with some of that money coming from the sale of existing lands considered less valuable for conservation. Environmental groups have indicated that they plan to push for twice that amount this coming session. They note that next year, the state will pay off bonds issued through Florida Forever's predecessor program, “Preservation 2000” which will essentially free up $250 million spent on debt service.