Senate Agriculture Committee – This week the Committee heard a presentation on Bear Management in Florida by Nick Wiley, the Executive Director of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. According to Mr. Wiley, at last count (2002), there were approximately 3000 bears in Florida predominately in seven regions of the state: Eglin, Apalachicola, Ocala, Osceola, Chassahowitzka, Glades, and Big Cypress. Although listed as a “threatened” species in 1974, the bear population is now thriving and was removed from the list in 2012.
As a result, human interaction is rising and the Commission responds to thousands of calls every year. The agency partners with local governments and waste companies (Eight counties now have bear-resistant trashcans available); provides training for first responders and works with contractors to catch and remove bears. Although some bears are held in captivity at facilities such as Busch Gardens, many that have become accustomed to humans and food sources must be euthanized.
House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee – This week the subcommittee heard a presentation on Hybrid Wetlands Projects by the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, and a presentation on Invasive Plant Control by the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
- Chairman Albritton also announced that next week the subcommittee will release the House water project application form so that applicants can request funding for water projects. He added that the form will also be posted on the subcommittee website in Excel form. A demonstration of the Water Project Funding Application Process will be presented at the next subcommittee meeting, tentatively scheduled for January 14th. Chairman Albritton indicated that the deadline for submitting water project applications will be February 21, 2014.
Senate Community Affairs – This week the Committee passed SB 312 – Relating to Agriculture. The bill provides for property assessment limits for agricultural land owners who participate in water retention programs sponsored by the DEP or water management districts. The bill also expands the tax exemption on certain farm equipment to include parts and accessories, trailers, and irrigation equipment. The bill will now move to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, the third of four committees of reference. At the present time, there is no House companion.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government – This week the Subcommittee heard Legislative Budget Requests from state agencies under its purview. The Department of Environmental Protection presented the following Major Budget Priorities:
• $ 75 million Everglades
• $ 40 million Florida Forever
• $ 15 million Springs Restoration
• $ 19 million State Parks Repairs and Renovations
• $ 25 million Beach Restoration
• $125 million Petroleum Tanks Clean Up
Senators raised issues with the Florida Forever budget request (half of which was to come from sales of existing properties) and the beach restoration funding amount, which some believe should be increased significantly. One should expect to see revisions in the future.