Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida Budget Deal Angers Environmentalists

The lower Santa Fe River, Columbia County. (Photo:SRWMD)

TALLAHASSEE, FL - Environmental groups are reacting angrily to Tuesday's news of a budget deal in Tallahassee that spends far less on conservation than voters expected.

Seventy-five percent of Florida voters approved Amendment One last November, setting aside about $750 million this year to buy and protect environmentally sensitive land.

Aliki Moncreif, executive director of Florida's Water and Land Legacy, says the deal goes against the will of the voters.

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"They are proposing to spend it on day-to-day operations of our existing agencies," she says. "It's a matter of, 'Hey, last year we used to pay for this from our general revenue, but this year let's pay for it from Amendment One.' We don't think that's acceptable."

A spokesman for Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) notes the legislative body did allocate $55 million for land purchases, but added they are more interested in protecting land the state already owns.

Moncrief complains that Florida Forever, the agency charged with acquiring land for conservation, is being shortchanged.

"Florida Forever used to get at least $300 million a year for two decades, and what they agreed to was $17.4 million," she says.

Activist groups are considering a lawsuit. The deadline to pass the budget is Friday.

Photos/graphics; links: added/updated by the Observer

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