Fla. Stat. § 259.105 - The Florida Forever Act

Cite as:Fla. Stat. § 259.105
Currency:Current through Chapter 193 of the 2018 Legislative Session
 
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(1) This section may be cited as the "Florida Forever Act."

(2)

(a) The Legislature finds and declares that:

1. Land acquisition programs have provided tremendous financial resources for purchasing environmentally significant lands to protect those lands from imminent development or alteration, thereby ensuring present and future generations' access to important waterways, open spaces, and recreation and conservation lands.

2. The continued alteration and development of the state's [Florida's] natural and rural areas to accommodate the state's growing population have contributed to the degradation of water resources, the fragmentation and destruction of wildlife habitats, the loss of outdoor recreation space, and the diminishment of wetlands, forests, working landscapes, and coastal open space.

3. The potential development of the state's [Florida's] remaining natural areas and escalation of land values require government efforts to restore, bring under public protection, or acquire lands and water areas to preserve the state's essential ecological functions and invaluable quality of life.

4. It is essential to protect the state's ecosystems by promoting a more efficient use of land, to ensure opportunities for viable agricultural activities on working lands, and to promote vital rural and urban communities that support and produce development patterns consistent with natural resource protection.

5. The state's [Florida's] groundwater, surface waters, and springs are under tremendous pressure due to population growth and economic expansion and require special protection and restoration efforts, including the protection of uplands and springsheds that provide vital recharge to aquifer systems and are critical to the protection of water quality and water quantity of the aquifers and springs. To ensure that sufficient quantities of water are available to meet the current and future needs of the natural systems and citizens of the state, and assist in achieving the planning goals of the department and the water management districts, water resource development projects on public lands, if [where] compatible with the resource values of and management objectives for the lands, are appropriate.

6. The needs of urban, suburban, and small communities in the state [Florida] for high-quality outdoor recreational opportunities, greenways, trails, and open space have not been fully met by previous acquisition programs. Through such programs as the Florida Communities Trust and the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program, the state shall place additional emphasis on acquiring, protecting, preserving, and restoring open space, ecological greenways, and recreation properties within urban, suburban, and rural areas where pristine natural communities or water bodies no longer exist because of the proximity of developed property.

7. Many of the state's [Florida's] unique ecosystems, such as the Florida Everglades, are facing ecological collapse due to the state's [Florida's] burgeoning population growth and other economic activities. To preserve these valuable ecosystems for future generations, essential parcels of land must be acquired to facilitate ecosystem restoration.

8. Access to public lands to support a broad range of outdoor recreational opportunities and the development of necessary infrastructure, if [where] compatible with the resource values of and management objectives for such lands, promotes an appreciation for the state's [Florida's] natural assets and improves the quality of life.

9. Acquisition of lands, in fee simple, less than fee [less-than-fee] interest, or other techniques shall be based on a comprehensive science-based assessment of the state's [Florida's] natural resources which targets essential conservation lands by prioritizing all current and future acquisitions based on a uniform set of data and planned so as to protect the integrity and function of ecological systems and working landscapes, and provide multiple benefits, including preservation of fish and wildlife habitat, recreation space for urban and rural areas, and the restoration of natural water storage, flow, and recharge.

10. The state has embraced performance-based program budgeting as a tool to evaluate the achievements of publicly funded agencies, build in accountability, and reward those agencies which are able to consistently achieve quantifiable goals. While previous and existing state environmental programs have achieved varying degrees of success, few of these programs can be evaluated as to the extent of their achievements, primarily because performance measures, standards, outcomes, and goals were not established at the outset. Therefore, the Florida Forever program shall be developed and implemented in the context of measurable state goals and objectives.

11. The state must play a major role in the recovery and management of its imperiled species through the acquisition, restoration, enhancement, and management of ecosystems that can support the major life functions of such species. It is the intent of the Legislature to support local, state, and federal programs that result in net benefit to imperiled species habitat by providing public and private land owners meaningful incentives for acquiring, restoring, managing, and repopulating habitats for imperiled species. It is the further intent of the Legislature that public lands, both existing and to be acquired, identified by the lead land managing agency, in consultation with the [Florida] Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for animals or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for plants, as habitat or potentially restorable habitat for imperiled species, be restored, enhanced, managed, and repopulated as habitat for such species to advance the goals and objectives of imperiled species management for conservation, recreation, or both, consistent with the land management plan [purposes for which such lands are acquired] without restricting other uses identified in the management plan. It is also the intent of the Legislature that of the proceeds distributed pursuant to subsection (3), additional consideration be given to acquisitions that achieve a combination of conservation goals, including the restoration, enhancement, management, or repopulation of habitat for imperiled species. The [Acquisition and Restoration] council, in addition to the criteria in subsection (9), shall give weight to projects that include acquisition, restoration, management, or repopulation of habitat for imperiled species. The term "imperiled species" as used in this chapter and chapter 253, means plants and animals that are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act, or state-listed by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

[a.] As part of the state's role, all state lands that have imperiled species habitat shall include as a consideration in management plan development the restoration, enhancement, management, and repopulation of such habitats. In addition, the lead land managing agency of such state lands may use fees received from public or private entities for projects to offset adverse impacts to imperiled species or their habitat in order to restore, enhance, manage, repopulate, or acquire land and to implement land management plans developed under s. 253.034 or a land management prospectus developed and implemented under this chapter. Such fees shall be deposited into a foundation or fund created by each land management agency under s. 379.223, s. 589.012, or s. 259.032(9)(c), to be used solely to restore, manage, enhance, repopulate, or acquire imperiled species habitat.

[b. Where habitat or potentially restorable habitat for imperiled species is located on state lands, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall be included on any advisory group required under chapter 253, and the short-term and long-term management goals required under chapter 253 must advance the goals and objectives of imperiled species management consistent with the purposes for which the land was acquired without restricting other uses identified in the management plan.]

12. There is a need to change the focus and direction of the state's major land acquisition programs and to extend funding and bonding capabilities, so that future generations may enjoy the natural resources of this state.

(b) The Legislature recognizes that acquisition of lands in fee simple is only one way to achieve the aforementioned goals and encourages the use of less-than-fee interests, other techniques, and the development of creative partnerships between governmental agencies and private landowners. Such partnerships may include those that advance the restoration, enhancement, management, or repopulation of imperiled species habitat on state lands as provided for in subparagraph (a)11. Easements acquired pursuant to s. 570.71(2)(a) and (b), land protection agreements, and nonstate funded tools such as rural land stewardship areas, sector planning, and mitigation should be used, where appropriate, to bring environmentally sensitive tracts under an acceptable level of protection at a lower financial cost to the public, and to provide private landowners with the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from their property.

(c) Public agencies or other entities that receive funds under this section shall coordinate their expenditures so that project acquisitions, when combined with acquisitions under Florida Forever, Preservation 2000, Save Our Rivers, the Florida Communities Trust, other public land acquisition programs, and the techniques, partnerships, and tools referenced in subparagraph (a)11. and paragraph (b), are used to form more complete patterns of protection for natural areas, ecological greenways, and functioning ecosystems, to better accomplish the intent of this section.

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