State Senator seeks to use land preservation money for areas affected by Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA) — Voter-approved money for land and water preservation is once again being sought to help conservation efforts in counties still recovering from Hurricane Michael.

Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Bill Montford on Thursday refiled legislation for the 2020 session to allocate $50 million a year from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for projects dedicated to conservation and land management activities in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington.

While lawmakers advanced more than $220 million toward relief efforts related to Michael during the 2019 legislative session earlier this year, a similar trust-fund measure proposed by Montford and Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, failed to advance.

The trust fund was established by Florida voters in 2014 to steer one-third of the revenue from an existing real estate documentary stamp tax — known as doc stamps — for land and water preservation.

The tax was projected to generate $2.76 billion in the current fiscal year, of which more than $906 million would go into the trust fund.

In previous legislative sessions, lawmakers earmarked annual spending of about $200 million for Everglades protection; $64 million for a reservoir project in the Everglades Agricultural Area; $50 million for the state’s natural springs; and $5 million for Lake Apopka.

A proposal by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, to dedicate $100 million a year from the trust fund to the Florida Forever land preservation program goes before the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee Monday afternoon.

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