A group of high-profile ranchers, farmers and cattlemen has added its voice to the chorus urging Florida lawmakers to support the Florida Forever land-protection program.
The request, included in a letter sent this week, comes on the eve of Florida Forever Day – Wednesday, April 7 – when supporters will rally at the state Capitol to ask lawmakers to provide funding for the program. It also comes as Senate and House budget negotiators prepare to enter late-stage budget talks crucial to determining Florida Forever funding in the upcoming year.
Florida Forever has been a cornerstone of state environmental policy and has helped preserve almost 160,000 acres of working agricultural lands.
“These prominent leaders of Florida agriculture recognize that over the years Florida Forever has provided many, diverse benefits to Floridians,” said Andy McLeod, director of government affairs for The Nature Conservancy, a member of the Florida Forever Coalition. “It’s no wonder that this program has drawn such deep support from so many quarters, whether it be from park-visiting citizens, conservationists, chambers of commerce or ranchers.”
Those calling this week for the funding of Florida Forever are:
• Mike Adams, president, Adams Ranch, Osceola County
• Doyle Carlton III, Hardee County
• Tommy Clay Jr., Former President, Florida Cattlemen’s Assn., Putnam Co,
• Rick Hartman, Realtor, Polk County
• Cary Lightsey, Lightsey Cattle Company, Polk County
• Charles P. Lykes Jr., Lykes Brothers Inc., Tampa
• Henry J.G. Moxon, Ocala Lumber Sales Company, Marion County
• Dean Saunders, Realtor, Polk County
• Jay B. Starkey Jr., Starkey Ranch, Pasco County
• Frank “Sonny” Williamson, Williamson Cattle Company, Okeechobee County
Florida Forever protects “our economy, jobs, and rural way of life by enabling Florida farmers and ranchers to stay in production while preserving valuable natural resources,” their letter says.
The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, a component of Florida Forever, was designed to help private agricultural land remain economically viable and in private ownership while being protected forever through the state’s purchase of development rights.
A list of 10 high-priority sites for conservation that are at risk if Florida Forever is not funded is being featured – one each day – in a countdown to Florida Forever Day, April 7, on the Florida Forever Coalition Web site at www.supportfloridaforever.org. Florida Forever Day is scheduled for 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Waller Park outside the Capitol building. A special program is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
The Florida Forever Coalition includes more than 175 organizations, agencies and businesses with environmental, recreational, cultural and community missions. The Coalition steering committee includes The Nature Conservancy, 1000 Friends of Florida, Audubon of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Wildlife Federation, Florida Recreation & Park Association and The Trust for Public Land.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Realtors have endorsed the Coalition’s push for Florida Forever funding.
For more information about Florida Forever or the upcoming Florida Forever Day at the Capitol, please contact James Miller at (407) 489-5538 or Andy McLeod (850) 443-4966.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.