Friday, February 19, 2016

Florida Legislature moves bill forward allowing state parks to be repurposed for hunting, grazing

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 12:13 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ASHLEY BELANGER
  • Photo by Ashley Belanger
A bill that would give the Florida Department of Environmental Protection the ability to allow hunting, cattle grazing, timber farming and RV camping in Florida's parks and preserves was advanced by a Florida House committee, the Tampa Bay Times reports. 

HB 1075 passed its final hurdle, the House State Affairs Committee, on Thursday. Proposed by the DEP, the bill would "consolidate state laws relating to land management and give the agency more flexibility as it attempts to manage the more than 13 million acres of land in the state's control," according to the Times. Environmentalists, mainly the Sierra Club of Florida, are concerned the bill gives DEP too much control by letting them decide if conservation land can now be used for recreation. 

Environmental groups have been unhappy with the DEP since last year, when it proposed leasing land on the Myakka River State Park to ranchers for cattle grazing. DEP Secretary Jon Steverson told legislators he wanted the park system to become "self-sustaining" because it only covers 77 percent of its $80 million budget. Later documents showed DEP planned to have bid documents ready to send out to companies for timber harvesting and cattle grazing on some parks by the end of 2015. 

"We think this is the case of the tail wagging the dog," says Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen, according to the Times. "By legislative fiat, it employs a small piece of the executive branch — that being DEP — to overturn what the members of the Cabinet and governor have done."

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