by Pat Raia, [email protected]
A measure that would expand the network of routes that Florida's wildlife, including the iconic Florida Panther, uses to migrate across the state has been unanimously passed by both houses of the State Legislature.
CS/CS/SB976 – Promotion of Ecological Systems, creates the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act, a measure that protects interior greenways that are vital to animal migration. The Florida House of Representatives passed the measure by a 115 – 0 vote. It cleared the Senate by a vote of 40-0.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act also awards $300 million to Florida Forever, a land conservation program that specifically protects the Florida Wildlife Corridor, that will allow the program to expand the corridor network. The revenue is in addition to the $100 million that is allocated to Florida Forever in the state's budget.
The funds will also be used to protect the headwaters of major watersheds such as the Everglades and St. Johns River Basin and other lands and forests, and will help sustain working farms.
According to Senate Spokesperson Katherine Betta, Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) has strongly supported the legislation.
“In fact, in the Senate’s first offer to the House on use of nonrecurring federal funding, President Simpson included $300 million to expand the corridor,” Betta said.
Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) was not available to comment on the legislation.
According to environmental advocates, Florida Wild Life Corridor, protection of the lands is crucial as Florida's population expands.
“Florida’s population is growing fast, adding a million new residents every three years,” a website statement said. “The growth puts a strain on natural resources and habitat connections.”
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act now advances to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk to be signed into law.
Once signed, it becomes effective on July 1.