PRESERVATION 2000 (P-2000) – 1991-2000 Part III of 9

This is from  Authors are James A. Farr and O Greg Brock, Florida Division of State Lands

In 1989, Governor Bob Martinez appointed a Commission on the Future of Florida’s Environment to examine threats to Florida’s environmental health and suggest portential solutions.   The Commission realized that Florida’s then-current pace of acquiring conservation lands was not occurring fast enough to keep up with our rapid population increase and concomitant development pressure.   There were already more projects on state and regional acquisition priority lists than could be purchased under existing funding levels, and there were many more areas of the state with significant natural communities and listed species that had not yet been proposed for acquisition.  Commission staff estimated that there was an unmet acquisition need of more than $5 billion.   The Commission also recognized that land prices were escalating faster than the rate of inflation and that it would be advantageous to sell long-term bonds to fund land acquisition rather than to rely on the year-to-year collection of documentary stamp taxes.   They recommended that the state begin a much more aggressive program of land acquisition to protect more of the state’s natural environment before it was lost to development.

With the support of the Governor, the Florida Legislature responded in 1990, with passage of the landmark Preservation 2000 Act.   This act anticipated the sale of $3 billion in bonds over a 10-year period, $300 million per year, from 1991-2000.   The funds were to be given to the CARL program (50%), the Save Our Rivers program of the five water management districts (30 percent), a newly-created Florida Communities Trust aimed at helped local governments (10 percent), 2.9 percent each to the Division of Recreation and Parks, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Commission, and the Division of Forestry to purchase inholdings and additions to State Parks, Wildlife Management Areas and State Forests, respectively, and finally 1.3 percent for recreational trails.   The CARL and SOR programs continued to operate essentially as they had in the past, only with a substantially larger budget.  The Rails to Trails Program and the three Inholdings and Additions Program established their own internal agency procedures for selecting lands to be purchased.   The Florida Communities trust, however, was an entirely new program that needs a bit of explanation.

Florida Communities Trust (FCT)

In 1985, the Florida Legislature enacted a significant Growth Management Act that required all local governments in Florida (counties and incorporated municipalities) to prepare a detailed Comprehensive Plan, backed by extensive data and analysis, with goals, objectives and policies to guide development, provide infrastructure, protect natural resources, and provide resource-based recreation for their citizens.   The statewide oversight and approval of these comprehensive plans is a function of the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

The Florida Communities Trust (FCT) was actually established in 1989, but it did not receive funding until passage of the Preservation 2000 Act.   The program is housed in the Department of Community Affirs and was designed to assist local governments in implementing the conservation, recreation and open space, and coastal elements of their comprehensive plans.  Although the enabling legislation contemplates a broader function, funds from P-2000 were restricted to acquisition of lands in furtherance of outdoor, recreation and conservation, and not other activities related to local government assistance not directly related to land acquisition.

FCT has a governing board consisting of the Secretaries of the Department of Community Affairs and the Department of Environmental Protection, plus four members appointed by the Governor.   Application for projects may come only from local governments or non-profit organizations, and they are scored using a numerical scoring system that evaluates not only the quality of the natural resources on sites, but also how well the projects satisfy requirements of the local governments’ comprehensive plans.  Local governments are expected to provide matching funds for land acquisition, although smaller governments are exempt from this requirement.  Title to lands purchased through FCT is held by the local government with a reverter clause in the deed that gives title to the state if the local government does not manage the land for the purpose for which it was acquired.

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