Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Martinez calls for renewed funding of Florida Forever program

TAMPA, October 14, 2009 - Speaking at a beautiful bayside park created in part with state funding, long-term champion of land conservation and former Governor Bob Martinez today called for renewed funding for Florida Forever and applauded those members of the Florida Legislature working to fund Florida's premier land protection program in the 2010 Session of the Florida Legislature. "Florida's natural systems must be preserved or our unique and wonderful state will be endangered," said Governor Martinez, who as governor established the landmark Preservation 2000 Program, the predecessor to Florida Forever. "That is why in 1990 I proposed Preservation 2000 and supported its successor, Florida Forever, in 1998 and 2008. As a native of Florida, I enjoyed the beauty of Florida's waters, wildlife and open space growing up and want my grandchildren to have the same experience." Funding for Florida Forever was eliminated by the Florida Legislature this year (the fiscal year that began July 1, 2009). Any funding that remains is residual from past years. The Florida Forever Coalition believes that the interruption in funding undermines Florida's ability to save for current and future citizens many of Florida's most important state and local parks, wildlife habitat, rivers, water supplies and other natural treasures. In turn, members of the Legislature are signing the Coalition's "Florida Forever Endorsement" that backs the appropriation of at least $15 million for FY 2010-11. This step by the Legislature would enable the issuance of $300 million in Florida Forever bonds - just as the Legislature authorized unanimously in 2008 with the renewal of the program. "The time to invest in Florida's conservation future is now, when prices and landowner willingness are both very favorable," said Jeff Danter, The Nature Conservancy's Florida director. "A relatively small investment in Florida Forever today will benefit Floridians today and forever." Laurie Macdonald, Florida director of Defenders of Wildlife, said: "Florida Forever is essential to the protection of wildlife habitat for our state's incredibly diverse array of animal and plant species, including rare and imperiled species such as the Florida black bear and Florida panther. Florida Forever saves sizable tracts of wetlands and uplands and the connections that are increasingly important in the face of climate change." Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, stated: "The Florida Forever Coalition sincerely appreciates the ongoing commitment to Florida's premier conservation lands program demonstrated by Governor Martinez and by the united support of our other co-chairs, Governors Askew, Graham, and Bush." David Anderson, president of Audubon of Florida, said: "The great goal of saving the places that make Florida special means that we must make sure that land conservation is a priority in the state budget." Also today, the Coalition unveiled for the public a brand new publication entitled "Florida Forever: Conservation at a Crossroads Florida Green Book 2009." This document explores many of the conservation achievements of Florida Forever over the past decade and explains the diverse land acquisition challenges that demand future Florida Forever funding. Governor of Florida (1987-1991) and Mayor of Tampa (1979-1986), Martinez was the creator of Preservation 2000, the outstanding land conservation program that, from 1990-1999, preceded Florida Forever. He is currently an honorary co-chair of the Florida Forever Coalition. Former governors Jeb Bush, Bob Graham, and Reubin Askew are also Coalition honorary co-chairs. Cypress Point Park - a 32-acre treasure that features a beautiful beach, nature trails, a boardwalk, canoe launch, picnic pavilions, and more - was acquired through Hillsborough County's Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) with partial funding from the Florida Communities Trust (FCT) Program grant to the county and the City of Tampa. FCT is funded by Florida Forever. The city manages the park. The Florida Forever Coalition is composed of more than 125 groups that support Florida Forever's diverse environmental, wildlife, recreational, water supply, hunting, fishing, and agricultural purposes. Florida Forever Quick Links Florida Forever Coalition on the Web: www.supportfloridaforever.org E-mail: info@supportfloridaforever.org

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