By Kartik Krishnaiyer
When Florida Forever was passed as a compromise piece of legislation during the 1999 Legislative Session. Environmentalists including myself wanted a more comprehensive program to promote restoration of natural ecosystems (including but not limited to the Everglades). Whether or not the original legislation went far enough can be debated but few can argue that the Florida Forever program has been universally successful, and one of the few positive legacies of the Bush years in Florida.
Governor Charlie Crist understands this legacy in a way Legislators who were not around for its passage and whose shortsightedness is obvious.
The progress of the program is best described by the official website:
” Since its inception in July 2001 through September 2006, the state’s Florida Forever land acquisition program has been extremely successful as evidenced by the protection of: over 231,730 acres of Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission); 374,890 acres of habitat conservation areas (FNAI), and over 580 listed species locations of 190 different species, 98 of which are state-listed as endangered, 41 state-listed threatened, and 17 species of special concern; 513,050 acres of ecological greenways (Office of Greenways & Trails); 68,260 acres of under-represented natural communities; 54,540 acres of natural floodplains; 530,550 acres important to significant water bodies; 5,060 acres of fragile coastline; 236,210 acres of functional wetlands; 524,846 acres of significant groundwater recharge areas; 30,130 acres of land to support priority recreational trails; and, 268,330 acres of sustainable forest land. Also, over 2,500 acres of archaeological and historic sites have been protected. Note: these acreages were derived from the most recently updated Florida Forever data layers, which are continuously amended to reflect the most current scientific analyses of Florida’s natural resources. Additionally, the acreages recorded for each measure often overlap, and thus should not be added together.”
So in short Florida was on the cutting edge of progressive reform which our readers all realize is a rarity. It’s a shame the legislators don’t appreciate the historical significance of this program and remember that Florida’s economy is fueled by tourism and Florida’s tourism is largely fueled by its unique environmental balance. Investing in Florida’s environment is in fact an investment in Florida’s economy even more so than cutting taxes, funding education, etc. It is critical Florida continues to maintain higher environmental standards than other states.