Florida’s ranchlands are vital to the state’s environment and its food and water supply. These lands are quickly dwindling due to the high demand of residential and commercial production. If these lands continue to decrease, Florida’s natural resources will deeply suffer.
Florida cattle farmers and the Florida Conservation Group are advocating for more funding of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) and the Florida Forever program. RFLPP works to protect agricultural lands, and Florida Forever aims to protect Florida’s natural resources. Both programs provide conservation easements to Florida land to ensure that it will continue to be preserved. However, in order to preserve all that is left of Florida’s agricultural acreage, both programs need more funding.
Julie Morris, who is Florida manager for the National Wildlife Refuge Association and advisor to the Florida Conservation Group, is extremely passionate about these issues and believes these programs provide a great opportunity to protect Florida’s resources and water supply to urbanized areas.
Morris is calling on legislators to recognize these issues and be a part of the solution. “It’s important that our leadership starts to recognize that our water infrastructure is just as important as our highway infrastructure,” she said.
Morris believes conservation easements through RFLPP and Florida Forever are the most cost-effective way to protect Florida’s resources. The Florida Conservation Group would like $100 million allocated to RFLPP, and they hope legislators will restore $100 million to Florida Forever as well. “You can pay a little bit now to do this, or you can pay a lot more in the future,” Morris said.