Good morning Chair Trumball and members of the committee. I’m Lindsay Cross, Government Relations Director with Florida Conservation Voters. I am speaking for information purposes, however, the online appearance form requires that speakers are either in support or opposition. Not somewhere in between. But if we are being forced to choose, clearly this bill is a better deal and less destructive than the current M-CORES program.
The fact is: Millions of acres of natural Florida have already been destroyed and millions more will be. But without adequate and consistent funding for conservation programs like Florida Forever, we will never accomplish bold conservation goals like permanently protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
To be perfectly clear: SB 100 IS better than the current M-CORES statute which is a budget-busting boondoggle. Most notably, this bill takes the southwest-central corridor off the table so panthers can breathe a little easier. It also has less aggressive timelines. But it leaves on the table a new turnpike extension which, in all likelihood, will be quite similar to the Northern Turnpike M-CORES toll road.
The extent of road upgrades needed along US-19 is also unknown. Both areas are rich in natural resources and springs and we don’t know which natural areas and local communities will be impacted.
We are not naive. Our population continues to grow and people need places to live and ways to get around. But efforts to strip growth management laws and preempt local municipalities from doing what’s right for their residents make it harder – or near impossible – to grow smartly and in a way that damages less of our irreplaceable natural areas.
To truly protect what we love about our state, this bill must be coupled with full and consistent conservation funding, more aggressive protection of our water resources, and a renewal of our commitment to good growth management. Thank you.