(MIAMI, Fla.) Last week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act into law after receiving unanimous bi-partisan approval in the Florida House and Senate. The new legislation will establish the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a blueprint for the state to connect all of its large national and state parks with tracts of open land.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor encompasses 17.9 million acres – 10.1 million acres that are already protected and 7.8 million acres of remaining opportunity areas that do not have conservation status. On a map of Florida, the wildlife corridor consists of all the green spaces, public and private, between pockets of cities. The new bill is considered a pivotal plan to preserve migration paths for animals and prevent them from becoming inbred and isolated. Essentially, it would ensure that a population of wildlife—whether it be black bears, Florida panthers or gopher tortoises—would not be cut off from other groups of its species, which is one of the main drivers of extinction. Once completed, the corridor would create an unbroken swath of preserved land from the Alabama state line all the way to the Florida Keys.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act consists of several provisions, including:
- Securing access to habitats for wide-ranging wildlife
- Preventing fragmentation of critical land areas
- Protecting the headwaters of major watersheds including the Everglades
-Maintaining the sustainability of working farms, forests, and lands, as well as the preservation of lands and waters to protect coastal estuaries
In addition to unanimously passing the new bill, lawmakers doubled funding to $100 million for Florida Forever, which preserves all environmentally sensitive lands, and agreed to put $300 million from federal stimulus funding toward land conservation.
“This is landmark legislation for Florida conservation — as well as conservation nationwide — and it is the result of decades of advocacy and education,” wrote Jason Lauritsen, executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, which is now changing its name to the Florida Wildlife Corridor Coalition. “Floridians support a balance between the growth of the economy and preservation of natural resources. This is a moment to celebrate, but also the beginning of a new journey. Florida is finding innovative solutions for conservation to ensure wild Florida exists for future generations.”
The bill immediately authorizes a multi-agency study, which will be completed by the end of the year, to figure out what is damaging the Little Wekiva, a Central Florida waterway. The legislation charges the Department of Environmental Protection, working with other agencies, to figure out what to do about it.
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